In a global first, France has mandated that certain electronics manufacturers must let consumers know just how repairable their products are. And happy Right to Repair advocates say other nations are watching closely.
“In recent years, electronics of all shapes and sizes have become more difficult to fix due to a combination of design choices and software locks that often require proprietary manufacturer tools to get past,” writes Grist. Enter French policy-makers determined to fight this scourge of planned obsolescence.
As of the beginning of this year, manufacturers of smart phones, laptops, lawnmowers, TVs, and washing machines are required to prominently display a “repairability index” on their products. The index, which scores a product from 1 to 10, is calculated on five criteria: “availability of technical documents to aid in repair, ease of disassembly, availability of spare parts, price of spare parts, and a wild card category for repair issues specific to that class of products,” explains Grist.
“All of the information that went into calculating the index must also be made available to consumers at the time of purchase.”
And France’s determination to hold manufacturers to account for ballooning e-waste streams does not end with this new law. “By 2024, the repair index will transition to a ‘durability index’ that not only tells customers how repairable a product is but also describes its overall robustness,” notes Grist.
Right to Repair advocates have praised the new index as “a litmus test for other nations weighing similar regulations,” noting it will “help consumers make better choices,” and encourage companies to improve the repairability of their products.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Ugo Vallauri, co-founder of the London-based Restart Project. He told Grist the initiative bodes wells for the European Union’s efforts to mandate Europe-wide repairability labelling.
The system is not yet perfect: manufacturers generate their own indexes, and there seems to be little in the way of government oversight. But Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told Grist the transparency enforced by the legislation could spur competing companies to keep each other on the straight and narrow.
“Apple, for instance, could call out Samsung if its competitor comes out with a dubiously high repairability index for a flagship smartphone,” writes Grist.