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Protesters Are Slowly Winning Electronics Right-to-Repair Battles in Europe

Published: December 14, 2018
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Source: Mother Board

On Monday, December 10, protestors gathered outside of the Albert Borschette Conference Centre in Brussels. They’d brought an unhappy refrigerator with them. Inside the building, European Union member states had gathered to vote on changes to the EU’s Eco Design and Energy Label Directives—a set of policies and laws governing the safe manufacture of various appliances.

Groups such as Schraube locker!? (Screw Loose in English) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) had been working towards this moment for months—agitating for EU politicians to take the opportunity to enshrine the right-to-repair in European law. It’s going to be a long fight. Monday was all about refrigerators.

“They decided, for refrigerators, that spare parts should be available,” Joyce-Ann Syhre, a founding member of Schraube locker!?, told me over Skype. Going forward, manufacturers selling refrigerators in the EU will have to sell consumers the spare parts they need to fix their own machines. They also have to be designed to be repaired with common tools. It’s one small step in a long process. Next week will see another vote all about regulations about lights, and in January they’ll vote on washing machine regulations.

Schraube locker!? is a German group dedicated to agitating for the right to repair in its home country of Germany. It gathered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition aimed at encouraging German legislators to vote to enshrine the right-to-repair in EU law. Monday’s vote was a small but important victory in the fight right-to-repair legislation in Europe. A fight groups such as Schraube locker!? are pioneering.

In Europe, the fight for the right-to-repair is new and legislative wins are often two steps forward and one step back. That’s how it was with the refrigerators. “They said the spare parts and information should be mainly there for professional repairers,” Syhre said. “This would mean that all the bottom-up repair initiatives and people at home will still have problems getting information and spare parts.”

European activists are still optimistic.

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