The ‘right to repair’ regulation has been implemented in Great Britain and targets premature obsolescence in goods with the aim to incentivise energy efficient manufacturing.

This was agreed two years ago by BEIS and impacts products such as televisions, washing machines and other electrical products. Manufacturers are now obliged to make spare parts readily available, and it applies to new products bought on or after 1 July 2021, alongside other energy efficiency measures. Northern Ireland however will continue to maintain EU regulations under the Protocol.

A grace period of up to two years is in place for manufacturers to make spare parts available, and the ruling does not cover responsibility for repairs, so the consumer is still financially liable for products out of warranty.

Considerable barriers remain

Libby Peake, Head of Policy at Green Alliance, has said the regulations “represent a small, first step towards giving people the long-lasting repairable products they want” but don’t create a “legal right to repair…The government hasn’t given consumers any such right, as the spare parts and repairability criteria are only directed at professional repairers, not at the people who own products. There is also no guarantee that spare parts and repair services will be affordable, so considerable barriers remain to making this the easiest, default option.”

It is estimated the right to repair measures could reduce up to 1.5m tonnes of e-waste annually, and potentially expand the lifespan of some goods by up to ten years. This illustrates a shift in UK policy setting that also targets consumption reduction and circularity and it is anticipated that we will see similar motivations in the upcoming consultation on reforming the WEEE regulations.

Keeping products in use for longer, and increasing the efficiency of them, will be an essential part of achieving low-carbon and sustainability governmental ambitions in the future. However, these won’t be achieved without a wholescale cultural shift toward lower consumption, that these kind of policy measures alone can not achieve.