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Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive, Electrical Safety First OPINION


April 2021 ertonline.co.uk


Right to repair and the unintended consequences


Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of leading consumer protection charity,


Electrical Safety First, explains why the Government’s well-intentioned policy on the ‘right to repair’ needs to consider the impact on consumer safety.


11


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nder new UK legislation planned for this summer, consumer electrical products such as refrigerators, dishwashers and televisions must be ‘repairable’ for up to 10 years. The regulations will, for the first time, require manufacturers to make products’


spare parts available to consumers – creating a legal ‘right to repair’. The legislation arose from the EU’s Eco-design Framework, which


focuses on developing a green, circular economy, as an alternative to the traditional linear approach of make, use, dispose. (Despite Brexit, the Government had committed to implementing some previously agreed EU legislation, including the right to repair). While it would seem to support both environmental concerns and


consumer rights – reducing any built-in obsolescence, extending the product life-cycle and empowering consumers – right to repair may not be as beneficial as it first appears. Our concern is the likelihood of consumers repairing their appliances


without expert knowledge and increasing the risk of fire, electric shock and injury. Currently, there is no register of competent, third-party professionals who undertake repairs on electrical products. But in almost every high street or market, there is at least one shop, or stall, selling unauthorised replacement parts or undertaking repairs. We completely understand that many consumers get frustrated with


products when they break just after a warranty ends and they either cannot fix it themselves, or it is uneconomical to get it ‘professionally’


repaired. Improvements in product design can, in the long term, make repairs easier, but at the moment some appliances are simply too complex for the average person to safely mend. The ‘high street’ repairer, or individual consumer, lacking the technical expertise, equipment or experience required, can make complex repairs counter- productive by creating further risk. Many manufacturers currently limit the number of spare parts they


make available to authorised dealers, particularly those relating to tech items. Under the UK’s proposed right to repair legislation, spares for products such as fridges and TVs must now be made readily available. (And in future, the EU plans to extend this requirement to items such as laptops and mobile phones). However, some people will always look for a bargain, rather than the


genuine product. So we have an additional concern regarding the authenticity of components – particularly those purchased online, which can be fake, substandard, untested and potentially dangerous. Electrical Safety First is calling on the Government to give serious


thought to the full implications of right to repair. We believe a network of competent repairers, approved by manufacturers, must be introduced for this well-intentioned policy to benefit both the consumer and the environment – without impacting on safety.


For more information you can visit: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk


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