Right to Repair rules change: Is this the end for the broken garden fridge?

July 24, 2021

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

New right to repair rules introduced on Thursday 1 July 2021 require manufacturers of consumer products to make spare parts available to buy.

What does this mean?

The new rules will require manufacturers of certain white goods and electrical goods, such as fridges, washing machines and TVs, to make spare parts available to buy within two years of a product being released. Depending on the difficulty of replacing the parts, they may be sold to the public generally or to registered repairmen.

The new rules are aimed at increasing the lifespan of products such as TVs, fridges and washing machines. This is in response to “built-in obsolescence”, whereby manufacturers build products so that they break down after a certain period of time, often just as a warranty period ends, in order to encourage consumers to purchase a new product. For example, think about that iPhone battery which magically seems to fail after two years, just as your contract is ending.

Parts for “simple and safe” repair will be available directly to consumers, whilst parts which require greater skill will only be available to professional repairers. The frustration to many consumers is when a small, seemingly simple to replace, part cannot be found, such as the seal to a fridge door.

Manufacturers have been given a two-year grace period beginning on 1 July in order to make these parts available.

What's the big picture effect?

The new right to repair rules will, according to the government, make repairing products cheaper and easier, by requiring manufacturers to make spare parts available, increasing their lifespans by up to ten years. It could also have environmental benefits, as fewer white goods will be thrown away.

Under the previous regime, manufacturers often offered warranty periods that could last several years, during which they would be required to repair products. However, once this period had ended, consumers often found it difficult to repair the product, even if the part which failed should have been easy to replace. Now, consumers are guaranteed the ability to find these parts.

This can be seen as an important step in reducing electrical waste and stemming the flow of such products to landfills. However, Adam French, a consumer rights expert at ‘Which?’ says that the legislation must be extended to include more products to be truly successful in this aim. There are also currently no rules as to the cost which can be charged for the spare parts, which may result in repairs being no cheaper, even if they do become more readily available.

The cost of these new obligations may, however, be borne in the upfront price of these products, manufacturers warn. This may erase some of the benefits to the consumer if the result is they essentially pay for the more expensive current repair in a higher initial payment.

Report written by Joshua White

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