The European Commission advocates for new rules for the repair of mobile phones and tablets.
Draft proposals released this week would require manufacturers to make at least 15 components available to professional repairers up to five years after launching a new phone in the European Union (EU). That means customers would have guaranteed access to replacement batteries, back covers, front and rear cameras, audio jacks, charging ports, microphones and speakers, SIM and memory card trays, and more.
Extending the life cycle of a smartphone or tablet by just five years is roughly equivalent to taking 5 million cars off the road, according to the financial timesFinancial times. That’s a tough question for consumers, though, as electronics manufacturers are releasing newer, shinier phones every year.
“The sharp rise in demand for smartphones and tablets, combined [with] their increased functionality has resulted in increased demand for the energy and materials needed to manufacture these devices on the EU market, accompanied by an increase in their associated environmental impacts,” Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen wrote in the statement. proposal. “Furthermore, devices are often replaced prematurely by users and, at the end of their useful life, are not sufficiently reused or recycled, leading to wasted resources.”
If adopted, the initiative would also usher in a new energy label for phones and tablets, similar to those that already exist across Europe for televisions and large household items. The labels would indicate the expected battery life and include details about protection against water and dust, and rate the device’s resistance to drops and scratches.
Meanwhile, those manufacturers that can’t (or won’t) supply batteries for five years must comply with a set of battery endurance tests that certify that devices reach 80% of a rated capacity after 1,000 full charge cycles. . They will also need to ensure that software updates never negatively affect battery life.
While the draft proposals aim to make phones more energy efficient and durable, easier to repair, and possible to reuse and recycle, some people believe they don’t go far enough. The Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), an international NGO that advocates for environmentally friendly technology standards, policies and laws, called the move “generally encouraging” but said the proposals “still need to be significantly improved”.
The Commission’s five-year deadline for providing spare parts and software updates is not long enough, ECOS said, noting that it does not apply to flexible display technology at all. “As a result, such devices could become the norm for manufacturers who wish to ignore the design requirements imposed by the EU.”
“The repair rate and the new energy label will be a game changer,” ECOS program manager Mathieu Rama said in a statement. “Let’s make sure we tie up all the loose ends: consumers deserve both repairability and reliability, which should go hand in hand.”
The “right to repair” movement has gathered pace in recent years, with manufacturers like Google and Samsung partnering with iFixit to sell replacement parts. Even Apple got in on the action this year with its own (expensive) self-service repair shop.