Against obsolescence: EU Parliament adopts directive for more consumer rights

In future, it will be forbidden in Europe to equip products with design features that limit their service life. This regulation on “planned obsolescence” contains a “guideline to strengthen consumer rights in ecological change”, which the European Parliament passed by a large majority on Thursday. The EU Commission’s proposal for a directive, revised by Parliament, is now entering into negotiations with the EU member states in the Council.

According to the directive, manufacturers should not be allowed to restrict the functions of their products when they are used with spare parts, accessories or materials from other companies. This applies, for example, to printer cartridges that are not offered by the printer manufacturer itself. Likewise, the marketing of intelligent devices whose functions are restricted when using chargers or spare parts that do not come from the original manufacturer should be prohibited.

As one of the features that can limit the shelf life of a product, the draft directive (PDF) mentions software “that stops or downgrades the functionality of the product after a certain period of time”. Customers should be informed about how long free software updates will be available. The Directive further requires that customers are informed of any repair restrictions prior to purchase so that they can opt for more durable and repairable products.

High-quality products could be highlighted by being provided with a new guarantee mark, which also states the duration of possible guarantee extensions. In this way, companies could be persuaded to focus more on durability, say the EU parliamentarians.

The directive is also intended to ensure that products are not advertised with misleading claims about their alleged environmental compatibility. In the future, general environmental statements such as “environmentally friendly”, “natural”, “biodegradable”, “climate neutral” or “eco” may only be used if these characteristics can be proven in detail. In addition, environmental statements that are made exclusively on the basis of emission compensation systems are to be prohibited. In the future, advertising should no longer be made with claims about the entire product that only apply to a part.

“In the future, the industry will no longer benefit from producing consumer goods that stop working shortly after the warranty period has expired,” said Croatian rapporteur Biljana Borzan (S&D) after the vote. “Consumers must be informed in a clear manner about repair options and costs.”

The proposed directive is part of the first circular economy package. This includes the Ecodesign Ordinance and the Construction Products Ordinance.


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