EU proposal: Strengthening the right to repair and preventing greenwashing

Commission proposals important steps for sustainable business practices. Longevity of products will be improved - "Ready to Repair" test mark could facilitate purchasing decisions. Sound environmental claims should prevent greenwashing. Independent assessment organisations make a decisive contribution to the implementation of the initiatives.

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Berlin, 22 March 2023 - With its proposals for a Right to Repair and the use of so-called Green Claims, the European Commission yesterday presented two further important legislative pieces as part of its Sustainable Products Initiative aiming to boost sustainable products. Juliane Petrich, Policy and Sustainability Officer at TÜV-Verband, comments:

"We strongly welcome the Commission's proposals on a right to repair and on regulating green claims. They are an important step towards achieving a true circular economy, to which we are currently still far from. Through a set of measures, the right to repair ensures that products last as long as possible and can be repaired. Important components must be easily accessible and removable. We welcome the fact that consumers and repairers will henceforth have easy access to the necessary repair and maintenance information. In addition to the hardware, the software of products will also be taken into account."

However, the TÜV Association also sees room for improvement in the EU Commission's draft, in particular when it comes to transparency for consumers:

"Consumers should be able to easily recognize how well and in what form products can be repaired before they buy them. The legislator should therefore consider a mandatory independent assessment of the reparability of products. The establishment of a test mark (‘Ready for Repair’) could also make it easier for consumers to make sustainable purchasing decisions. Products with a certification mark would then have to fulfil specific requirements including the availability of spare parts, the simple replacement of parts or components or guaranteed software updates.”

"It should not be possible for product repairs to be carried out solely by manufacturers' and dealers' own or authorised repair shops, but also by independent repair shops. This increases the range of available repair shops and promotes competition in the repair market. Independent repairers should prove their competence in repair services with a certification by independent bodies. Such certificates can serve as a valuable guide for consumers when choosing a repair shop."

From the point of view of the TÜV Association, an important step forward is the proposal on the informative value of the advertising messages of manufacturers and distributors with regard to the environmental properties of their products and the sustainability of the companies themselves (green claims):

"A major annoyance for consumers are misleading promises about the environmental properties of products in advertisement. Many manufacturers and retailers use slogans such as ‘climate neutral’, ‘100 percent recycled’ or ‘environmentally friendly’. However, it is often completely unclear what is actually meant by this. It cannot be ruled out that greenwashing is involved. The Green Claims proposal aims to counter this by establishing criteria that environmentally related claims about products or companies in the EU must meet. EU member states will henceforth have to ensure that environmental claims are proven using a scientifically sound methodology, for example the 'ecological footprint', which captures environmental impacts in 16 categories.“

"We very much welcome the fact that the verification of the conformity of advertising claims with the prescribed scientific methods must be carried out by independent third parties - such as the TÜV companies. This will ensure that environmental claims are reliable. In future, consumers will be able to trust that claims such as ‘eco’ and ‘climate-friendly’ really deliver what they promise."

Together with the new Ecodesign Regulation presented last year, the Right to Repair and the proposal on Green Claims are another important step towards achieving the ambitious goals of the "New Action Plan for the Circular Economy" and the European Green Deal. The TÜV Association's detailed statement on the new Ecodesign Regulation, which also comments on the right to repair, is available here.