Riigikogu committee objects to EU initiative on consumer product law

Electric household appliances.
Electric household appliances. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

On Friday, the Riigikogu's European Union Affairs Committee discussed the European Union's initiative on the repairability and durability of consumer goods, as well as the government's stance on it, and resolved to continue the issue at the July 21 session.

The European Commission adopted a proposal on common rules promoting the repair of goods on 22 March 2023. As part of this initiative the commission issued the "proposal for a directive on Empowering consumers for the green transition," which will enable them to be informed about the possibility of repairs and durability of goods when deciding to purchase them.

This proposal for a directive on common rules promoting the repair of goods adds a new dimension: promoting repair in the after-sales context when the goods are used by consumers. This and other two initiatives together cover the full life-cycle of goods and jointly protect the "right to repair."

By reducing waste production, these initiatives aim to make consumer products more durable and repairable. The changes should reduce the production of goods and the need for valuable resources to produce new goods. Consumer protection is of equal importance, as longer product life and simpler repair will save consumers money.

The Riigikogu commission questioned the initiative's necessity and decided to continue the discussion at its meeting in two weeks.

According to the commission's chair, Liisa Pakosta, such a directive is unnecessary. "The directive required member states to launch a website to make it simpler for people to locate reparations. However, the private sector has already addressed this issue effectively; there are numerous websites where information is readily accessible. And if people are interested, the solution is education — people have to know how to ingest information in today's world. As a family person, I can guarantee that anyone searching will find a place to repair a phone or a home appliance," Pakosta said.

The initiative seeks to make it easier and less expensive to repair products, including the creation of an online platform to connect consumers with local repairers and sellers of reconditioned goods.

There are countries, according to ministry representatives, that would support the introduction of an EU-wide website. According to the government, Estonia would benefit from platforms for maintenance services established either in other EU member states or as a European Union-wide platform as well.

"Also, the initiative in question aims to require repairers to offer prospective clients with a spreadsheet containing information, such as the exact cost of the repair or, if unknown, a description of how the price will be determined. However, this adds nothing, because the intelligent consumer already calculates and compares prices, and a hazy mandatory table will not make the process any easier or more transparent," Pakosta said.

She added that things must be improved, but instead of the planned adjustments, we must produce durable, recyclable products and teach in schools how to fix things.

Representatives of the ministries pointed out that the initiative is part of a larger package and that the Ecodesign Regulation for Sustainable Products is developed to ensure that that products are repairable, such that a phone's battery can be replaced and the consumer does not have to buy a new phone just because of the battery.

The initiative also will grant consumers the right to request that a manufacturer repair a product, such as a washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum cleaner; require manufacturers to inform consumers of the products they are required to repair; introduce a repair information form to make it easier to compare repair offers; and develop a European quality standard for repair services. The goal is to encourage consumers to prioritize product repair and to simplify and reduce the associated costs.

The government's position paper notes that if consumers are to have the right to demand that products be repaired, this must be enforceable in the real world, for instance by taking cross-border situations into account.

In terms of the presentation of information on the repairs, the government's position paper recommends that information overload should be avoided. The Estonian government supports the concept of a repair services platform, and any EU-wide platform must be interoperable with existing information systems.

Pakosta said that the EU Affairs Committee is prepared to hear the opinions of other member states and revisit the draft directive at its July 21 meeting. The economic affairs committee, as a sectoral committee, also supported the government's position.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Kristina Kersa

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