EU lawmakers are exploring the idea of a scoring system to rate the level of reparability of products like laptops and washing machines. The scoring system could appear on labels to help consumers choose reparable products.

The European Commission has just launched a study to analyse and develop a potential scoring system to rate the ability to repair and – in the case of laptops, for example – upgrade products.

The current project is expected to deliver outcomes by the end of 2018, and will initially include three products groups: laptops, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.

The results of the study may be used to set the framework and grounds for the expansion of the existing energy labels, where such information could be displayed. 

Coolproducts campaigners maintain that such a scoring system would help consumers gain a better understanding of the impact of certain products on the environment. It would improve transparency and help governments transition towards a circular economy, where waste is prevented thanks to increasing reuse and repair operations.

Commenting on the news, Chloe Fayole, Ecodesign policy expert at ECOS and Coolproducts, said:

“Labels can steer consumers away from wasteful products and towards more reparable and reusable ones, with clear benefits for them and the planet. EU lawmakers have now the opportunity to expand on the success of the energy label, which gives appliances an impartial A-G ranking according to their level of energy efficiency.”

She added:

“A rating system for products and services should be based on their environmental impact as well as level of reparability, durability and recyclability.”

In an email to the industry, governments and civil society, the Commission announced the study will be carried out by its Joint Research Centre in wide consultation with consumers and various interest groups.

The news comes amid speculation that some big tech companies are shortening the lifespan of products with the aim of making customers replace it.

In France, where planned obsolescence is illegal, prosecutors are investigating whether Apple has deliberately slowed down some iPhone models through a software update coinciding with the release of a new model.

But despite growing pressure and some voluntary agreements, companies are currently not required to provide consumers with information on whether the products they buy are reparable.   

Although this work is to be seen in the context of ‘eco-design’, authorities said that the consultation has no influence on the ongoing work on the revision of the regulations for these products via Ecodesign and Energy Labelling. 

If you’d like to know more or take part in the consultation process until 7 May, get in touch with your Coolproducts campaigners. Alternatively, you can register for updates on the project website.

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With the support of thr European Union (LIFE Programme and European COmmission). This work reflects the author's views and does not commit donors.