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Europeans Now Have The Right To Repair – And That Means The Rest Of Us Probably Will Too
As anyone who has been faced with a recently-manufactured household appliance that has broken will know, sometimes they can be surprisingly difficult to fix. In many cases it is not in the interests of manufacturers keen to sell more products to make a device that lasts significantly longer than its warranty period, to design it with dismantling or repairability in mind, or to make spare parts available to extend its life. As hardware hackers we do our best with home-made replacement components, hot glue, and cable ties, but all too often another appliance that should have plenty of life in it heads for the dump.

[Image: Czech waste management workers dismantle scrap washing machines. Tormale [CC BY-SA 3.0].]  Czech waste management workers dismantle scrap washing machines. Tormale [CC BY-SA 3.0].If we are at a loss to fix a domestic appliance then the general public are doubly so, and the resulting mountain of electrical waste is enough of a problem that the European Union is introducing new rules governing their repairability. The new law mandates that certain classes of household appliances and other devices for sale within the EU’s jurisdiction must have a guaranteed period of replacement part availability and that they must be designed such that they can be worked upon with standard tools. These special classes include washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, televisions, and more.

Let’s dig into the ramifications of this decision which will likely affect markets beyond the EU and hopefully lead to a supply of available parts useful for repair and beyond.

 

When A Large Customer Adopts Right To Repair, Everybody Does
The right to repair what we own has been a hot topic in our community for many years, and indeed has appeared in these pages many times. The recent legislation will not help in some of the key battlegrounds such as the use of DRM to restrict maintenance of John Deere tractors, but it will have a huge impact upon the domestic appliance market far beyond the EU borders. The union’s member states collectively represent such a significant market that these rules will affect the design of appliances sold in all markets, as the manufacture of these devices is now a global undertaking. Thus it is not unreasonable to expect that, for example, a Korean-made washing machine sold in Paris will have the same underpinnings as one sold in Miami, and that both machines will benefit from the same supply of replacement parts.

[Image: It's likely that parts suppliers such as espares will continue to sell parts to everyone, and not just the trade.]  It’s likely that parts suppliers such as espares will continue to sell parts to everyone, and not just the trade.
The story is not without a sting in the tail though, for within it is the news that those spare parts will not be made available to the consumer, instead they will only be released to the appliance repair trade. We see this as a regressive step, because by restricting repair to an anointed few it is hardly a universal right to repair, however we also expect that the usual online suppliers of appliance parts will happily sell to all comers and that a thriving grey market will spring up to fill any gap in the market. There is also the question of what it might do to the lower end of the appliance market, what would the spare parts burden do to the availability of the sub-$50 Chinese breadmaker for example? We would expect this to solve itself by manufacturers of low-end goods adopting a largely standard library of parts, however a concern is that it might push up the entry level for appliance ownership to the disadvatage of less well-heeled consumers.

That’s The Feelgood News Story, Now What About The Hardware Hacker Community? [Image: This hydropower generator for off-grid living uses a washing machie motor.]  This hydropower generator for off-grid living uses a washing machine motor.
So far this has been a consumer story, but what about our world of hardware hackers? Going back to the start of this piece it is likely to mean that in future we more likely to be able to fix those dead appliances that cross our benches, but there is more in it for us. This measure will mean a bonanza of readily-available parts will come to market as spares, and while many of them will be restricted to their intended application there will be plenty that will have utility well beyond. Expect to see more brushless motors, valves, pumps, and more at mass-produced and grey market prices, and start thinking about how you might use them.

As this is being written the news streams are full of environmental protests, from Greta Thunberg to Extinction Rebellion to the Bolivian capital and it’s undeniable that they represent the prevailing zeitgeist. The European Right To Repair laws are not in the name of personal freedom but aimed at reducing environmental impact. There is a sunk cost of carbon emissions and other impacts in every product we produce. It is in the public interest to give each the longest life possible, and on balance this law aims to reduce waste through increased longevity with a repairability mindset. I think it is inevitable that we will see the same ethos spread to other jurisdictions and fields of manufacturing.

Posted in Current Events, Featured, green hacks, News, Original Art, Slider Tagged domestic appliances, eu, right to repair  Post navigation
138 thoughts on “Europeans Now Have The Right To Repair – And That Means The Rest Of Us Probably Will Too ”
  1. Moryc says: 
    Just because there is a new law, doesn’t mean manufacturers will make this easy or cheap. My mom has a big fridge. A plastic front of a drawer in the freezer part broke off. Replacement part from the distributor of that brand costs about 1/12 of the price of that fridge. If they wanted, manufacturers could make spare parts so expensive, it won’t make economic sense to even attempt to fix something…

    1. Hans says: 
      Yes, but regarding that I rely on the myriad of 3rd party companies around the world which are able to “reverse-engineer” almost any part and produce it way cheaper. Maybe forcing the OEMs to drop their prices. But then in turn this may end in a 3rd party vs OEM war as seen in printer cartridges… Greed is such a ugly thing.

      1. Chris says: 
        “But then in turn this may end in a 3rd party vs OEM war as seen in printer cartridges”

        Announcing the new Smart Fridge with DRM shelves to ensure the best experience. If the fridge detects a 3rd party replacement shelf, it disables the light, the ice cube maker and the compressor… because we want to ensure the customer gets the best experience, and we can’t guarantee 3rd party shelves will be fully compatible.

        1. HenryH says: 
          There are some Philip K Dick novels that went down this line of thought decades ago. ‘Smart’ appliances, even doors, that required some amount of money for every usage, and would verbally taunt and berate you in the meantime. Not all that different, really.

    2. Will Lyon says: 
      Came to say exactly this. MY parents’ old 55″ plasma TV died. Everything I could find points to the main board. You can get them, sure. But they’re $140. For that kind of money you can almost buy a new LED 55″ TV.

      1. Michael Black says: 
        But you’ved mapped out the problem.

        That tv set cost a pretty penny. $140 doesn’t seem that much to keep it running. But you are swayed by cheaper products, which admittedly may have some newer features.

        Things used to be expensive, even in the electronic age they started out expensive. So repair was valid, since the cost was small compared to replacement. People bought few things, but made choices, and they treated their stuff with care.

        I paid $500 for my first dot matrix printer in 1982, about $120 for my laser printer last December. A friend spent $1000 for a VCR in 1980, I can get a DVD player cheap now, if I can’t find a free discarded one (my blu-ray player I found at least five years ago on tge sidewalk, after someone moved. It needed the b!u-ray laser lens cleaned).

        Labor costs are expensive, they are skilled and repair takes time.

        But in order to provide all that gadgetry at low enough cost, an item has to become cheaper. It makes for a larger buying population, which in turn means things can be made cheaper.

        But the cost of all that stuff, remember you need all of it but have the same amount if money so it has to be spread thinly, means that corners have to be cut. That 1982 dot-matrix printer was solidly built, and likely used common parts for most of it. I suspect wherever it is now, it’s still running. But to make it cheaper, they move to plastic rather than metal. They use dedicated ICs that aren’t common but which put much in one package. They aren’t made by hand, which means they are designed for automated manufacturing.

        So an ink-jet printer can be had for under $100, and works better than that 1982 printer. But it may physically break since it’s plastic. Repair becomes expensive since it’s made to be built cheap rather than repair. Parts are hard to get since they aren’t common (not primarily a scam, but to make the product cheaper) and may not be available long since the next run of the printer may be made cgeaper ir add new features, causing a new IC to be made. A board may not be cheap, buf cheaper than tracking down the problem, tracking down components (assuming it’s not a mechanical issue) and removing and soldering in those tiny parts (now tiny to make things smaller, to make robot manufacture easier/cheaper).

        And on top of this, people are wasteful. They want things cheap, so they see the price of repair as expensive. They are swayed by something new, justifying it as throwaway (the cartridges are as expensive as a new printer) or because a new oroduct, now cheaper, has more features.

        Make things more expensive, and repair becomes more viable, though maybe things won’t be as small and sales won’t be as large. But consumers are part of the loop.

        Michael

        1. Veijo says: 
          In flat TV most expensive part is glass. All other parts are nuts.

        2. Claire Miller says: 
          Yep. And on printers, I know someone who instead of buying expensive ink cartridges, buys a new printer which comes with ink. The guy has a humongous stack of near-new printers piled up in his garage.

      2. Moryc says: 
        Fix that plasma TV, it’s way better than any LCD…

    3. Alexandre Souza says: 
      A good point is the keyboard membrane of microwave devices. Here in Brazil (locally/chinese) membranes are something around $3 to $5. If you try to find in USA a keyboard membrane for a microave it costs $80. There is NO REASON it should cost this much.
      (that is why I created a switch keyboard for my USA microave, post is somewhere here in Hack a Day)

    4. Michael Black says: 
      We had a plastic shelf break in our refrigerator. I drilled some holes on either side of the break, wired it together (fishing cord works too) and applied epoxy. Lasted years. Maybe when tge drawer broke I coukd gphave done the same, but the broken pieces were either too small or lost.

      Michael

    5. dave says: 
      Exactly what the auto industry does.
      Long time ago an aquantience sent a speedo cluster through the UK mail insured as special delivery.
      It got lost.
      The manufacturer didn’t hae a price for just a cluster any more, you had to total it up part by part. They stopped counting when they got to 700quid and made a claim for 500 which was paid.

      I’m sure someone on the interweb has done the exercise. Seeing how much it would cost to build a car ordering bits via the parts counter vs the sticker price. If it’s not 200% mark up I’d be surprised.

      1. Graham says: 
        I remember reading somewhere about 10 years ago that if you wanted to build a $20k car from the dealer parts counter it’d cost ~$120k. No idea where I saw it but having traded quite a few dollars for parts to keep my decrepit old clunkers running over the years I’d say that’s about right.

        1. David C Brown says: 
          But, at least, you can get spares for your automobile. I have never had to scrap a motor because I could not get spare parts. Not even my thirty year old vee-dub golf.

      2. Tom says: 
        Yes, building a car from spare parts is certainly more expensive than buying the whole car – which is to be expected. People seem to forget or overlook that the engineering and logistics involved in making a complete service setup is huge!!!

        There is a significant difference between having parts in bulk on a pallet by the assembly line and having parts individually packaged, distributed, stocked and sold. (You could probably buy at least one car for the time you and the parts seller will spend on identifying, getting and accounting all individual car parts – but good luck with that endeavor ;-)

        It is much more complex and expensive to make a product that is comprised of replaceable parts, making spare parts into sell-able products and ensuring interchangeability with those spare parts over the entire service life than making a product that is a “one off the assembly line”. Compatibility with spare parts, service manuals etc. is a serious constraint on a products evolution!

    6. Chuckz says: 
      Tools are patented so I’m already using screw drivers with star attachments because everyone wants their own product being bought. I bought a fridge and had to buy star #15 or something to put the doors on.

  2. Oliver Marks says: 
    where are the open source appliance projects, where we can build and maintain these at home, loads of micro-controllers around just need the appliance parts available to put them together.

    1. suckiden says: 
      Like this? https://permanere.org it’s an open source washing machine designed to last at least for 100 years

      1. Black Mage says: 
        Interesting though if I was designing it to last 100 years I’d avoid any electronics and go with an electromechanical timer using parts that could be made on a lathe or 3D printer to avoid any parts that may become obsolete.

        1. LordNothing says: 
          electronics are ok so long as they dont use any rare or one off parts. say building the thing out of 7400 series logic and seven segment displays. or any open architecture mcu could also be used. and so long as you well document the ins and outs of the device, map out the state machine, etc it should be enough to reconstruct the device or replace it with a new design.

          1. Michael Black says: 
            I can’t reply to the reply below about ASICs.

            But “open source” really just needs to be about parameters, and how something works. Then if a module fails, the function can be duplicated. More easioy done with a controller for an otherwise mechanical washing machine than a module in a tv set.

            But when electronic magazines were big the articles included a description, and often details about odd parts. So we could grasp the concept, and use available parts. That seems more useful than laying out a project and saying it’s open source when only companues can duplicate it because the parts or construction are beyond tge home builder.

            But realistically, this “movement” isn’t about troubleshooting and component replacement, but an end user wanting to follow instructions to replace their cracked iphone screen. They want modules tgey can plug in, not nderstanding so they can find and replace a bad component.

            Michael

        2. Sprite_tm says: 
          To be fair, the way to fix obsoletion with electronics is to keep both the electronics and the software open-source and modular. That way, if one electronic part gets obsolete, you can just swap out the module for a newer one that works the same way as the old one, just has a newer chip in it that’s programmed to be functionally identical.

          1. Luke says: 
            Yeah, no.

            It still has the same problem of standardization and keeping up support for products that have a diminishing number of users. People will come up with new improved form factors, connectors, electrical specifications, protocols etc. which makes the new parts directly incompatible with old parts, and on the software side you may have thousands of users but if not a single programmer is interested in using and maintaining this obsolete piece of obscure technology, you’re SOL. It becomes effectively abandoned regardless.

            The problem of Open Source is that the number of people actually capable of maintaining the thing is vastly smaller than the number of people who would be using it, to the tune of 1:10,000 or greater. When the thing begins to fall out of use, such as a washing machine being replaced by successions of newer models after 30-40 years, the number of devices around you falls below the limit where you’ll find even one person who is willing and able to maintain it for you. You have to assume to do it yourself eventually, which means for most people you just won’t.

            Of course, if you’re willing to pay for it… but the point is still the same: obsolete devices are obsolete, not because they cannot be maintained, but because they won’t be maintained.

          2. dave says: 
            The way to fix obsoletion with electronics is to stop fitting them into every device going.

            Right to repair is one thing, but the day companies figured they wren’t going to make profit if they sold you something which never broke is the day things went south.

            A product like washer or a fridge should come with a 10yr guarentee minimum. and be rpcied accordingly.
            People would look after things better and not just throw them away.

            There is no moneyin fixing items today beyond your personal time or altrusim.
            People just swap parts.

        3. Aka the A says: 
          Personal experience is that the washing machine full of semiconductors is still going strong after 10 years only with a squeak in the pump, which can be bought spare for 25% cost of a new washing machine.
          Previous washing machines in the family that had mechanical programmers had constant problems with them after about 5-6 years.
          Same with cars. The purely mechanical carburated one required constant maintenance every year and before every longer trip. The EFI one from 2001 works and starts just fine, despite receiving only the maintenance prescribed by the manufacturer, nothing more.

          If you design the electronics to last, they will.

          1. dave says: 
            But mfrs design products to fail early. It’s not a myth it’s a choice.
            Take my friend’s audi with a actuator throttle body.
            The after market pattern part was 200quid. Christ knows waht the VAG was, double?
            Inside are plastic cogs. They canot handle the abuse, it failed after 4 years!

            It’s essentailly been DESIGNED to be a service item, they could have used metal cogs and no fault, but they cheaped out because they can sell a replacement.
            And they ALL fail in time which is why there is an after market part for them, still of course using plastic cogs !

            it’s not a conspiricy, it’s just business making money.
            We as society have grown/ been conditioned to accept that things fail.
            Nothing is built to last today because how do you sell more when everyone has one ?

          2. individual says: 
            Designing things to be a service item is alright, they may have ‘cheaped out’ for a variety of reasons, for example metal die cast cogs were not giving any notable advantage, or metal cogs would have had to be manufactured specially, as opposed to off the shelf plastic. There are many different things in play here, but you have choices, like only purchasing vehicles with metal cogs in their throttle bodies, or sending off the old part to have the plastic cogs replaced (which may require custom parts being made, and many hours of labour(hint: much unemployment is caused today by legislation mandating minimum wages and qualifications, and this also increases prices)). There are few answers to the overarching problem of short lived products, but all of them are ultimately demand driven (legislation is bad because of coercion required to enforce it), but for example, companies devoted to sustainability (say a big one like IBM) could make a big difference, merely by changing aquisition policy, so that there are certain standards that fridges bought for their break rooms must meet. Also, making people pay directly the cost of disposing of their waste would help (actual payment for waste disposal services instead of council tax)

          3. dave says: 
            “(hint: much unemployment is caused today by legislation mandating minimum wages and qualifications, and this also increases prices)”

            Whilst I dont agree with minimum wages I also dont agree that it’s a cause of unemployment.
            Since you mention council tax it sounds like you reside in the UK.
            The problem of unemployment is cured by not paying out such generous benefits.
            People here can afford to choose not to work and them do so in millions.
            It’s way we have had to import labour from the EU to do the jobs that UK people feel are beneath them – even with minimum wages !

            “metal die cast cogs were not giving any notable advantage”
            The only advantage they would have given is allowing the part to last the life of the car.
            Which doesn’t help the business make money on dealer servicing charges.
            It’s not about availability in supply chain of of the shelf parts, car manufacturers rarely do that.
            It’s purely a lesson in cheapening the product to force the consumer to pay to fix the product.
            It’s just as bad IMHO as lying about emissions – which was obvious to anyone with a brain has been going on for decades.

          4. David says: 
            This is not my experience. Our extended family is all using washers and dryers with mechanical timers and limit switches… And they are all in excess of 15 years old. Easy to repair, the designs have not changed since the 60’s… The open source washer and dryer have been around a looking time… Techie folks are just too smart to notice!

    2. Doug says: 
      Respectfully a good question Oliver; how are you going to advertiser to the world you are soliciting partners in a open source appliance project? The link you associate with your chosen hackday username is a dead end. Open source is a warm and fuzzy feeling. Not that I’m saying it can’t be done, but I believe any open source appliance could be so expensive dedicated DY types will pass, opting for a less expensive product at a box store or independent local retailer. Economy of scale shouldn’t be ignored , if any project hopes to be successful.

      1. Michael Black says: 
        I’venever really gotten “open source hardware”. Software makes sense since modifying it requires no parts. But hardware doesn’t really trickle down to the user.

        In “the old days” hardware was more “open source”. Tubes were generally off the shelf components, as were most other components. If that less available variable capacitor couldn’t be found, the value was often how it was described, so a replacement used.

        Projects were easy for a long time. Write about it and include the schematic. The end user copied it, or used the parts they had. The builder usually knew enough electronics to make substitution. The projects weren’t intended for companies to cooy, indeed at some point it became common for a writer to have a company provide a kit of parts to offer in the article (or companies to provide articles, hoping many would buy the kit).

        That changed as things got fancier. Projects started getting more complicated, making them harder to understand. They also used more specialized ICs either uncommonly available or in some cases custom parts. Sometimes the schematic was “too large” for the magazine, so you’d have to send away with a few dollars to get the schematic. And likely later it wasn’t available, so if you decided later to build it, or bought the magazine later, you were out if luck. For that matter, without the magazine in hand, there was no “open source”.

        The “open source” hardware projects I’ve seen in recent years are more valuable to other manufacturers. They require parts that aren’t”t easy to get, and may not be available for long. And may not be something easily built at home. For that matter, the owner may not like other companies copying, leaving not much to the open source.

        Michael

    3. Moryc says: 
      I had a book from 1970s, one of those “DIY projects for teenagers”. Because It was written when communism ran my country, some of those projects were on home improvement things. And one of them was “Make simple washing machine”. It was basically a barrel with spinning cone that agitated water and clothes. Very basic design but it was also very simple and cheap in times of constant shortages. And it was open-source because that book was in every school library, together with some other DIY books. and major set of chemistry books that taught kids how to make basic chemicals from raw materials, fluorescent paints using either some weak isotopes or other means, explosives, plastics, mirrors, etc.

      My point is: if people can’t buy it or it is too expensive to obtain, they will attempt to make it, and thus open appliances make sense. However in our current economy almost everyone in western world can buy them cheaply. And rest of the world can’t get them at all, can\t use them due to lack of electricity and/or running water or are too busy with trying to not starve to death to care if they have a washing machine, or not…

  3. Coil says: 
    Some manufacturers sell models of their appliances to specific markets. If they have the capability to customise per region then they will continue to side step the European right to repair. I don’t see this making much difference except forcing other manufacturers to customise per region and increasing prices to support that capability

    1. jon says: 
      They don’t even need to customize all the parts per region, just the part numbers…

      If a 1024357A is the same as a 1024357E but one is for the european market and one is for the americas… it muddies the waters enough to make repairing in countries not covered by a right to repair difficult.

      Add into it that 1024357E will only be shipped to europe… so if you want them in america you need to have it shipped from europe and pay all the fees associated with that…

      1. DarwinSurvivor says: 
        With the advent of iFixit and eBay, converting a part number and getting a part to a country the manufacturer doesn’t offically support is a surprising low barrier these days.

        Just the provision about being serviceable with standard tools (ex: using screws instead of rivets) will make a huge difference in the general public being able to replace the LCD module on a $2000 stove.

    2. Black Mage says: 
      The EU has a population that is 56% larger than the US’s but most of it’s member states have a similar or better standard of living.

      1. references says: 
        Where are you getting the “better standard of living”? If that were the case the EU would be a bigger target market than the USA, yet the opposite is true.

        1. Glenn Tracy says: 
          “Better standard of living” is true if you compare things like medical coverage, vacation time, education, parental leave and a whole ton of other “living” issues. The US is FAR behind when it comes to these things. I live in Texas and the medical care, education, etc is criminal.

  4. Brian Wilson says: 
    My Swedish Asko dryer needed brushes. In the US they would only sell a complete motor for around $300. Online EU suppliers refused to ship brushes to me. I had a Swedish friend but and ship. Cost about $30 including shipping. About an hour to install.

    So, I have little reason to think this will affect anyone in the US.

    We need open source hardware for these things. I spent some time going through repair manuals and learned all dryers are pretty much the same design inside. A belt driven drum and a heater.

    It’s one of the many things that could happen but doesn’t because it’s not as sexy to build as a self balancing robot.

    1. Shannon says: 
      I can easily imagine a business could be made from such a relationship. Maybe http://www.BriansSwedishFriend.eu who will send you a replacement part for, say, $40. Your friend will make a small profit, you will be happy, the Asko dryer company will think their driers break an unusual amount in Sweden compared to other countries but be happy that they’ve gotten around this pesky new rule.

  5. Ren says: 
    Maybe we’ll see more schematics now,
    All it will take is an Eastern European with a scanner and an Internet connection.

    1. Shannon says: 
      Do you only like Eastern European schematics?

  6. Biomed says: 
    Manufacturer’s profit from new equipment sales. Reliability and replacement parts were “selling features” that the public was able to take for granted “back in the day” but this is no longer so. Repair is the less glamorous and less profitable side of the manufacturer’s business. Repair by replacement is much more profitable for them so their path towards today was entirely predictable, and the bulk of us just stood by and watched it happening.

    If you want this to change then start publicizing whom has products that last and can be repaired. When you decide to purchase one product rather than the other based on parts and service availability DO let the salespeople know this because they have direct contact to management that is listened to. The populace, en masse, actually controls manufacturers if public opinion is exerted and sustained upon them.

    Our choice.

    Our blame.

    1. Black Mage says: 
      But that business model is not sustainable in the long run here the long run means for more than a few decades.

      1. scale says: 
        You’d think they care?
        When you own your company and start it from zero, you can see yourself thinking long term as long term there is growth.
        When your company is owned by shareholders, nobody cares because they can jump ship anytime.
        Also, when a company becomes big, it works by inertia.

        The problem is the size of the companies, when each country had to produce its own radios, computers and so on, there were many companies, probably a couple per country. So there was:
        1) Lot of competition
        2) The economies of scale were less significant
        Now most electronic (most, if not all appliances have electronics nowadays) companies are so big that saving 1 cent per component may mean saving millions and possibly tenths of millions.

        You need to imagine the scales of some countries.
        Amazon delivers 5 billion packages per year…but that’s nothing compared to China (or India, which has comparable population), there’s 1.4 billion people in China (with about 600M in cities), it would only take that each of them has 5 packages per year to beat Amazon.

        When you need to produce say fridges for them, companies get too big…unless you put an external control somewhere…

  7. Brian says: 
    Reality check. National market surveillance programs are a mess. The ‘CE’ mark, which is nothing other than a declaration from the manufacturer or vendor that everything is wonderful, has very little meaning or significance. Per other comments, the repair parts requirements will be easily gamed and will be costly to European consumers.

    The EU is not a market leader – it is a follower in most ways. The market leaders are probably California and China. Watch their legislation and regulations for anything that might be indicative of the future.

    1. Matouš says: 
      not sure what exactly you mean by EU not being a market leader – it’s the largest economy in the world (or the second largest, depending on the source)…

      1. EnnyPenny says: 
        And how will these legislations and regulations combine with a Right to repair?

        I’m afraid it will be gamed indeed, in the favor of the biggest chequebooks with the fanciest lawyers and marketing crews. The rules are, by nature, not in the favour of those who need to live by them compared to those who enforce them.

        1. You are talking about this young country USA here. Where everything is easy – even shooting your neighbour. How old is it? Europe is a lot more settled as is China. And there are laws over here. The last success initiative was vacuum cleaners – and they all had to obey the rules to sell in Europe. And WOW suddenly it was possible. I wonder who here has actually checked what new initiative is all about if I read the posts.

          1. Aka the A says: 
            Ignorant consumes are to blame for the 2kW vacuums that just heat air and make noise.
            Before the legislation was passed, “suction power” was this dark, unspeakable parameter that was next to impossible to find out, because consumes only cared about input power.
            So the manufacturer did what people wanted – they designed motors with deliberately too thin windings and crap efficiency, so they could slap an 1800W sticker on the thing with a straight face.

          2. Ren says: 
            In response to [Aka the A]

            Around 2 decades ago, I was in a shop that serviced vacuum cleaners and VCRs
            (they both use rubber belts, right?).
            One of the techs showed me an invention of his, it was basically a slotted box with a DC fan motor attached to a large analog voltmeter.
            At various points around the arc of the analog display he placed markings for various brands/makes of vacuum cleaners. By placing a vacuum cleaner over the slots of the box and running it, the amount of suction/air movement was displayed on the meter.
            It was a “quick and dirty” way to compare the sucking power of vacuum cleaners, and to show the customer how their repaired vacuum compared to new/other models.

        2. Ren says: 
          Rats! I accidentally posted before finishing!
          Yes, such a device could be “gamed” to favor one vacuum model over another, (e.g. how does one know the markings for competitive models are “real”?)
          But, if a customer/repair shop has no other way to see the effectiveness of their vacuum…
          (i.e. it’s better than nothing!)

    2. Christian Nobel says: 
      “The EU is not a market leader – it is a follower in most ways. The market leaders are probably California and China. Watch their legislation and regulations for anything that might be indicative of the future.”

      Nonsense.

      It might be that EU does not produce cheep crap in the same speed as does China, but with regards to e.g. green energy, product quality, responsibility etc, etc, EU is decades ahead of both China and Trumps own country.

      The future is Europe, maybe China, but so definitely not the falling behind US – unfortunately for Jenny, and I feel for her, the future for England looks gloomy.

      1. Ren says: 
        “unfortunately for Jenny, and I feel for her, the future for England looks gloomy.”

        Well, IMO, the future of EU residents is gloomier.

        1. Christian Nobel says: 
          “Well, IMO, the future of EU residents is gloomier.”

          Do you mean the EU residents that are living in England?

          Brexit will also be a (minor) setback for EU, yes, but it will be a disaster for England, which they soon enough will discover.

          1. uda-thortit says: 
            ..yep, total disaster. Just how will England cope without being in the EU? How will they even get air to breathe? If you look at history, England basically never did anything before joining the EU, right?

          2. Christian Nobel says: 
            ” If you look at history, England basically never did anything before joining the EU, right?”

            This is exactly the problem, the establishment in London still thinks that London is the centre of the world, and that the Empire still is big and mighty.

            But the reality is, that the Empire does not exist any more, and if not part of the EU, England is just another medium sized country.

            And then we will see the violence come back in Ireland, and the Scots who are so ready with the index finger – so what does that leave back for England.

            It saddens me very much that nationalist are ruining this in many senses lovely country.

          3. David C Brown says: 
            There seems to an equivalent to Goodwin’s law here: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a reference to Brexit approaches unity” Perhaps we should call it Cameron’s law :-)

    3. Steven says: 
      CE means you Comply with European regulations that are applicable for THAT class of device. You/the Company may self certify, BUT if you get caught shipping flawed products, caused harm or influence, the company who performed their self certification can be held accountable for damages and losses. That is what CE will do to you when you apply that decal. :-)

      1. Luke says: 
        The CE marking does not indicate that ANY company has performed ANY certification of any kind – including the company that put the sticker on. It means merely that the party who is importing the product or making it within the EEA claims that it conforms to the regulations.

        In effect, all products that require the CE stamp have the CE stamp regardless of conformity, and the consumers have no way of telling the difference because it’s just a pointless ritual you have to do in order to sell something in the EU. If you don’t put the mark on, you can’t sell the product anyways.

        Think about it.

        1. Laurens says: 
          This is correct. However, there are huge lists (>10.000) of imported products that have been tested for compliance. Obviously not everything is or can be tested, but it’s not like the regulators are just sitting on their asses doing nothing at all.

          1. no testing? says: 
            What’s the point of this marking and testing, if things that are not tested can still be sold?

            I got some backup batteries to charge a phone, have a CE marking, and I had to throw them because as soon as I plugged them they started smelling and got quite hot.

  8. Miroslav says: 
    Just consider what happens every time MS releases new Windows version or Apple obsoletes their perfectly working computers … mountains of suddenly too slow computers. They should be held responsible for this.

    1. macona says: 
      BS. I am running a 10 year old Mac Pro with the latest OS with zero issues for photo editing and video stuff and it holds up just fine. My gaming rig uses a 8 year old processor and a 3 year old video game and yet I am still playing games at max setting with the latest version of windows. If anything he latest versions of windows run better on Older system the that older OSes.

      1. Miroslav says: 
        Apple issuing updates for 10 year old computer? On what planet are you on?

        Windows 10 running faster than previous Windows on old hardware … sure.

        1. BastetFurry says: 
          >Windows 10 running faster than previous Windows on old hardware … sure.

          That is indeed no joke, 10 got a lot of enhancements from the RT/ARM adventures of Microsoft.
          If not for the drivers you could easily run 10 on a beefy P4 and actually enjoy it for basic tasks.
          Just have a look at the cheap x86/x64 tablets with it installed, they are not much faster than your average C2D or even P4 from back then and they run just fine.

  9. Queeg says: 
    Cost of repair vs manufacture is so high that for some common failures no repair is available.

    I bought a Hisense dehumidifier for it’s pump and two year warranty. Three have failed in exactly the same manner… compressor runs but unit fails to produce waste heat or cold coil. Their response? Send us the power cord and serial number sticker and we’ll send you a new one.

    I needed a repair estimate so that the last one would be covered by my credit cards warranty extension program. There are no factory service centers to get a quote from.

    1. Antron Argaiv says: 
      1yr old air conditioner from GE (Heier). Control panel died. Absolutely nothing wrong with the AC (I shorted out the control wires and it worked perfectly), but GE says “uneconomical to repair, here’s a 1-month time limited $100 coupon you can only use on a GE product”

      The replacement part was $100…and out of stock everywhere. 8 months later it finally shows up. I put it in (15 minutes with a screwdriver) and all is good again. So thanks for nothing, GE. An hour of my time and $100 brought a brand new a/c back to life.

      Satisfying to keep something out of the recycle stream…if somewhat expensive and frustrating.

    2. costs says: 
      Another thing to keep in mind is not only the cost of the parts, but the cost of somebody willing to repair and the price people can afford to pay.

      You may want to repair something, and parts could be available or be easy to repair, like for instance they rubber keypads from any appliance, but if you live in the suburbs of some city, you may not find anybody willing to come to repair it because it would not be profitable…

  10. I just wonder how may of the posters here have designed these parts they are complaining about – software or hardware. They are working for those companies and accept the salary. The old rule still stands: invest a bit more and it lasts a lot longer. We all know it but want it low cost – to avoid the word cheap. If this is what the market wants – this is what the market gets. What will this European rule achieve? We will see, but at least they are trying. Or do you have a better alternative?

    1. dave says: 
      I will happily hold my hand up.
      Just like being mugged for buying products with built in obsolence, I feel I’m mugging the company paying me to post on HaD :o)
      Holy christ, some of the arguements which have been had about the cheapest of parts as we try to shave every less cent off a BOM.
      People have nearly come to blows over adding an extra screw in an accessory bag for mounting in case the installer looses one – saves them time (thus money) in finding it vs cost of the screw over 10000 units.

      Here’s just a few things about 12vdc cooling fans:
      Should the fan be sleeve bearing or ball bearing, how much extra is it?
      Will it be ok if the product has a noisy fan as it wont be in a consumer setting when the sleeve fails?
      MTBF of sleeve vs ball vs warranty length vs cost of repair under warranty vs cost of extended warranty
      Customer perception of product precludes fan failure so absorb extra cost of fan even if extends life beyond warranty period.
      Fan with a RPM sensor so we can detect early failure and warn user vs costs of extra parts to do so vs ability of the product to function without the fan just hotter
      Cheap product, low end market, expects to be budget so fit the lower quality fan and it’s an upsell reason for the premium model with better fan (including RPM sensor!) we sell under a slightly different brand name but essentially 99% the same

      Just for the f***** fan !

      It’s why you dont eat food in a resturant you work in. You know what happens to it.
      My house has exactly zero products from the companies I’ve worked for – that weren’t free as part of testing, and even them some were so bad I chucked them.

    2. Glenn Tracy says: 
      Our appliances are 15 years old. Some came with the house, others came when we bought the house. I have repaired the dishwasher (several times), the fridge, the washing machine, microwave and haven’t had any issue with getting parts. The real issue is the throw away mentality. Kids aren’t taught (encouraged) to fix things here in the US. Schools don’t teach shop any more. They sold off all the shop equipment. Without exposure to “fixing your things” there is no market for repair. Where there is a market people will step in to service that market. There is still a profit in fixing things. Most car dealerships will tell you they make all their money on the repair shop not from car sales. The appliance market would certainly benefit in that model. Maybe this move by the EU will foster this.

  11. Paul Bryson says: 
    This law is a bad way to accomplish the stated goal – to reduce waste. It would be far better to simply require the manufacturer to provude a 100% warranty for the same period. Let the manufacturer figure out the cheapest i.e. least wasteful way of dealing with that. This directly incentivizes them to make it cheaper and easier to repair. They may decide that the cheapest solution is to make devices that last longer. This “right to repair” law does not directly incentivize eaither of these things.

    1. dave says: 
      It’s a nice idea but in practise it’s a hugely costly system to be able to offer 100% spare parts. The amount of human interaction taking place is disproportionate compared to producing a new item on the production line.
      Of course it depends on the type of device.
      But many repair centres for electronics say your DVD player, are just verifying the warranty before scrapping it and shipping out a brand new unit or out of box refurb.

      I take the opposite view that regulation will encourage companies (through force) to repair things.
      if you make a company 100% responsible for the waste product they will find ways to ensure 99% of that product is recyclable once it’s life is over and it wont go into landfil.

      Force every company to accept a broken product back and that they must show end to end chain of materials disposal and recycle, any of their product found in landfil will be billed to them at 20% of orignal sale price by the govt/council/etc, they will fix the problem of e-waste rapidly.

      But today its’ cheaper for them and 100% legal to fsck the environment so they do it.

      1. someone says: 
        Unfortunately, what they will ACTUALLY do then is simply charge every customer that extra 20% upfront, telling customers it is a government requirement. They will of course be pocketing most of it, and likely never pay out much of anythig.

        1. Tobby says: 
          The EU CE regs are aimed at importers to ensure compliance, effectively a barrier to trade with a nice, eco face. The technical files are required to be made available for 10 years, they must include drawings but not cad models. The recycling obligations are also set out at the start of the import/ production process..

          IMO long term the law of unintended consequences will result in pop-up operating companies in the eu to make/ import each product to sell on to distributors, the pop-ups will distribute their profits & then get wound up before the long term replacement/ recycling obligations need to be met.

      2. individual says: 
        Or just make customers pay the full cost of disposal themselves. Eliminate city council waste disposal, and enforce trespassing laws (for leakage from landfill and fly tipping) Then the customer has the problem of getting rid of broken things, at considerable expense, and they will soon learn to purchase stronger products.

  12. a Jaded Hobo says: 
    I can see a whole new business model where selling “consumable” spare parts will be the main income generator. If you don’t need to seduce someone into buying “the next new model” you save on development (and marketing) cost and increase margins.

    1. Michael Black says: 
      Of course, there used to be third part distributors of car parts, maybe still do. That helped the driveway mechanic keep their car going, as did trips to the junkyard.

      And many an electronic store where weused to buy parts sold to tv and radio repairman, likely tbeir business being more !ucrative than hobbyists in many markets.

      But that changed as TVs and radios became modern, lots of parts were not off the shelf, and atbose of those places closed with the shift to ICs rather than change with the times.ge

      Michael

      1. Ren says: 
        I became an Electronics Tech back in the 1970’s.
        Back then it seemed like it was a good career choice.
        I didn’t foresee the components getting smaller as my eyesight worsened, nor did I imagine that so many Consumer Electronics would become disposable.

        One local auto salvage yard stopped selling parts to DIYers a number of years ago. I think they stripped a few
        profitable parts off of the cars and then crushed them. Less hassle for them, I’m sure…

        1. someone says: 
          It still is a GREAT career choice. Two year graduates with an AAS are starting around $50k-$60k in MN. Everyone envisions electronics as soldering and repairing TV’s – soldering is done by machines and very specificly trained, moslty unskilled assembly workers. The Electronic Engineering Technician careers are in manufacturing, industrial R and D, aerospace, medical device manufacturing, working in engineering departments, etc. None of the jobs involve consumer repair, and techs who went to school in the 70’s but lived under a rock and somehow ignored computers/microcontrollers, programming, and networking (not as usleess “IT”, but as part of engineering) are now useless.

          1. Ren says: 
            Oh, you just stabbed me in the heart multiple times! B^)
            I’m in MN, I have 2 AAS Degrees (Electronics, Computer Systems) and I have BS in Computer Information Systems.
            I also worked 9 years as a Computer Tech in a UN*X/Linux environment doing sysadmin and networks.

            And I don’t make $50K/year!

            (sniff!)
            B^)

            (Maybe it’s because I’m such a smartass)

  13. Black Mage says: 
    The EU did the right thing here and other governments should follow suit something like a car or major appliances major should have parts support and even by third parties and be repairable with common tools.

    1. zoobab says: 
      The EU is surrounded by lobbyists from all large corporations, they cannot do anything without a lobbyist sending their position and visiting all the decision makers. Something the tinkerers and the people really fixing their shit does not have access to.

      I know because I live in Brussels. I drop my daughter at school where most of the parents are lobbyists, or work for the EU institutions :-)

      Lobby more!

  14. BotherSaidGCHQ says: 
    Incidentally the biggest reason is liability. The odds of a replacement part causing an accident are very small but companies want to redure risk. Such as intentionally bricking a product rather than allowing a third party repair (cough Craploza /cough)

  15. axet says: 
    Right to repair should extend to firmware of unsupported hardware (old wifi cards etc), and unsupported os (windows xp etc)

    1. this says: 
      Yes, they should be forced to open source after X years, with X < 5.

      Also, from day one all schematics and board files should be freely available. Just like the original computers did.

    2. Christian Nobel says: 
      “Right to repair should extend to firmware”

      Yes, yes, yes.

      The whole Android industry is a mockery – you can still buy brand new phones with Android 4.4 or 5, which is hopelessly outdated, and not supported by lots of apps.

      And the vendor couldn’t care a less – and the worst thing is, that the boot loader is efficiently locked, and despite the fact that one actually owns the device, one are not allowed to get the key – as Huawei says with big patos: It’s for the sake of the customers, so they don’t corrupt their units.

      I bought a craplet from Huawei, and it is actually 3 purchases in one: first, only, and last.

      The unit claims it has 16GB, but it only has 3GB left, the rest is bloatware – and rooting, no-no, pfeeewwww newer Huawei again.

      So imo if a vendor stops offering ota upgrades to latest version, he SHALL open the boat loader, and release unlock codes.

  16. Daniel Dunn says: 
    Finally! This almost makes up for how much hassle the GDPR creates for decentralized tech!

    1. what? says: 
      Well, if tech was decentralized as you said, GDPR wouldn’t be a problem.
      The problem is that the internet is owned by a few companies that obviously need to respect the laws of each country they operate in. That works when there are no laws, or when the laws are artificially aligned, but in the general case it should not be a surprise for a company to be asked to follow local rules…yet somehow they are always “surprised”…

  17. JD_Mortal says: 
    I’m all for a law that says things MUST have an expected life-time and, if not, they must be at-least repairable within that life-time. However, I would rather have a law that regulates over-inflated charges for repairs, upgrades and put profit caps on items.

    Just the other day, I had someone quote me $8,000 to have a new HVAC unit installed in our house. My used Lexus cost that much and a decent new car, costs that much… Lets place this into perspective. The HVAC unit costs $2,000 and there is another $200 for “other parts”. That is $6,000 for labor, which will only take four hours to do. That is $1,500 an hour! Yet, this installed device has no function or material value near the cost of the $8,000 Lexus or any new car, which comes with a more complex AC unit than what is being installed in the house.

    Literally, an HVAC is two cheap AC fans, a modest AC compressor, two large radiators, a cheap micro-controller with less function than a stop-watch, and a sheet-metal frame. Compared to a car, which, well, has a lot more complexity and labor-hours involved than I care to mention.

    For the record, the cost to “repair”, was only $6,000, which literally involved doing the same exact thing as just replacing the unit. The part they left-out was pulling the new copper pipes and wires and power-box. Apparently that was the extra $200 in parts and $1,800 in labor.

    The messed-up part about it, is this… it’s illegal to install it or repair it yourself, so you HAVE to pay this. Something that should only cost about $800, at the most, for parts, and worth only $400 in labor-costs. That is what will happen now, for everything now sold in EU. (Here, they want you to get a $300 electrical permit and have a licensed electrician, being paid $120 for the visit, just to change a light switch or change a single wall-plug. Literally, a job that a child can actually do, with common parts you can buy from any hardware store. Luckily, NO ONE does that! {“That” = Getting a permit and hiring an electrician to do that for them.} However, HVAC units are a little more complex… There are four power-wires and 8 low-voltage control wires, and some setups don’t come with pre-charged lines and units. Oh, and there is tape involved, to hook it up to the ducting… That is like one solid hour of labor, which is well worth $1,500 for that hour!)

  18. Stano Hrad says: 
    goddamn reading about bad things, thanks!
    I’ll also add something a documentary film about it, filmed in 2010:
    Light Bulb Conspiracy – The untold story of planned obsolescence
     

  19. John blackthorn says: 
    This new rule has nothing to do with reducing waste or allowing us to repair any thing, everything we own can currently be repaired by an authorised repairer as long as you’re happy to pay more for a repair than a replacement.
    Everything you own can be repaired by you, the parts are available on ebay for most things.
    Under the new rules an authorised repairer can replace broken parts with ordinary tools as opposed to weird tools, the only change is that parts must be available by law whereas currently parts are just available.
    Nothing in this law says the part has to be a sensible price.
    Certain responsible manufacturers have been guaranteeing parts availability, in one case (stihl) for ten years after the product is discontinued.
    The only change is that in future the guy that looks at your dead boiler won’t be able to say “ahhh the trouble is you just can’t get the parts for these (3 year) old boilers any more, I can do you a deal on a new one though”
    Instead he’ll have to say ” ahhh now that the eu have fouled up my nice little eraner i don’t want to get dirty fitting a £10 heat exchanger and charging you £20 for five minutes work so I’m going to charge £100 for the call out and £55 an hour while I pretend to fiddle with stuff and then I’m going to tell you that because of the prohibitive cost of making spares available the heat exchangers are now £212 plus other sundry items and vat”
    meanwhile the eu gets to look environmentaly responsible and one of the ministers mates gets to set up a multi manufacturer domestic appliance parts supply and distribution business with an undoubtedly zero carbon footprint because the niece of someone the ceo met planted some sunflowers once.

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