Hear from a researcher about the Right-to-Repair Directive: Agnieszka Jabłonowska Photo by cottonbro studio

Hear from a researcher about the Right-to-Repair Directive: Agnieszka Jabłonowska

The Council of the EU gave its final approval to the Right-to-Repair Directive on 30 May 2024. Agnieszka Jabłonowska shares her insights on the Directive, exploring its potential impact on encouraging repair over replacement, strengthening consumer rights, and supporting small repair businesses.


According to the World Economic Forum, people in the EU generated an average of 505 kilograms of waste per person in 2020, marking a 10% increase since 1995. The escalating consumption of goods and the consequent waste generation have intensified the debate on sustainable practices within consumer law, highlighting the need to prioritize repair over replacement to advance a more circular economy. Although replaced goods can be recycled, repair remains more efficient as it conserves energy, materials, and water while reducing transportation costs, loss of material, and deterioration compared to recycling (Terryn 2019). Despite these benefits, most consumers (64%) still prefer replacement over repair when the goods purchased are defective and they exercise their legal rights (European Commission 2023).

In response, the European Commission adopted in March 2023 a proposal for a directive on common rules promoting the repair of goods, also known as the Right-to-Repair Directive (R2RD). After legislative negotiations, the act was adopted by co-legislators: first the European Parliament and later the Council. With “[t]he directive adopted today (…) [a]ll economic actors win, and so does the environment”, said Alexia Bertrand. While maintaining the consumer right to choose between repair and replacement within the liability period, the Right-to-Repair Directive seeks to promote repair both within and beyond that period.

In this blog post, Agnieszka Jabłonowska, a post-doctoral researcher from the Consumer ID Project, shares her insights on the R2RD and responds to some of our questions.


What are the potential key benefits that the R2RD offers to consumers?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: Existing EU law tends to emphasise consumer rights before and during contract conclusion. By contrast, the focus of the new Directive falls squarely on the post-purchase stage. To understand the benefits promised to consumers, it is useful to distinguish between two further phases. While doing so, we can also clarify the extent to which the R2RD actually introduces a “right to repair”.

Firstly, EU consumers already enjoy “a right to repair” if a product defect appears within the liability period, that is, in principle, two years from delivery. When that happens, consumers can contact the seller and request repair or replacement. However, consumers may be unwilling to go for repair if they can just as well ask for a new product. The R2RD seeks to incentivise repair by extending the liability period by an extra year if repair is chosen. In other words, a consumer who selected repair can count on the seller to fix product defects for three years in total.

Secondly, the Directive equips consumers with a new “right to repair” if a defect becomes apparent when the seller is no longer liable. Specifically, the consumer will be able to turn directly to the manufacturer, who in turn will be required to repair the product. Also, the producer will not be able to refuse this request only because the product was previously repaired by someone else. However, several caveats apply: the obligation to repair does not cover all products and a (reasonable) fee may be charged. Thus, in many cases, consumers will have to approach independent repairers or they may prefer to do so.

Does the R2RD also affect small repair businesses?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: It does, in three main ways. The Directive introduces the European Repair Information Form, which repairers may voluntarily fill in before contract conclusion. The form promises to increase legal certainty: if repairers complete it correctly, it is assumed they have complied with several existing obligations. However, not all disclosure duties are covered by this mechanism so repairers may still have to give further information. 

A second point concerns repairers’ access to spare parts and tools. Existing EU legislation already requires manufacturers of certain products to make those available. The R2RD now specifies that the relevant parts and tools should be provided “at a reasonable price that does not deter repair”. Moreover, the Directive prevents manufacturers from using contractual clauses and hardware or software techniques that impede repair unless justified, e.g. by IP rights protection.

Finally, the R2RD introduces a European Online Platform for repair, which may increase the visibility of repair services to consumers.

Can you elaborate on the types of products that are covered under the Right-to-Repair Directive?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: In principle, the Directive applies to all products, but selected provisions have a narrower scope. This is especially the case for the manufacturer’s obligation to repair, which only applies to goods for which repairability requirements exist under EU law. The relevant list can be found in Annex II to the R2RD and, for now, includes, e.g. mobile phones and many household electronics (washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, etc.).

Art. 4 of the R2RD regulates the European Repair Information Form, which contains important information such as the identity of the repairer, the price of the repair, the time needed to complete the repair, and whether a temporary replacement good can be provided during this period. How effective do you think the European Repair Information Form will be in informing consumers and incentivising them to prefer the repair? 

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: From the consumers’ standpoint, standardised information presentation can be a benefit. There is a lot of research about the limitations of disclosure because of information overload and behavioural biases. The scholarship also made valuable recommendations on how to achieve meaningful transparency—the work by Joasia Luzak and colleagues is a great example. From this perspective, the European Repair Information Form seems like a step in the right direction.

However, it remains to be seen if repairers will actually make use of the form. The associated benefits may not be sufficient to outweigh the effort. As noted, the form does not guarantee that all disclosure duties are fulfilled. In addition, repairers who make use of the form are bound by its conditions for at least 30 days, which some service providers may find inconvenient.

Article 13 of the Right-to-Repair Directive requires Member States to take at least one measure promoting repair. Recital 36 states that this measure can be of a financial or non-financial nature and provides several examples. Considering consumers’ attitudes towards repair, what kind of measure do you think would incentivise them to repair the most?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: The provision leaves a very broad margin of discretion to the Member States. This is probably good at this stage as we are still gathering best practices. For example, the repair voucher system introduced in Austria has shown some promising results. Existing repair cafés are also doing an excellent job in many EU cities and are certainly worth supporting. In reality, to truly promote repair in the EU market more than one measure will be needed.

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte in 2023, repairability is one of the top two consumer considerations when purchasing. However, as stated in the introduction, most consumers prefer replacement over repair. How should these two statistics be read together? Do consumers really value the repairability of the products they buy and their right to repair?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: That’s a very interesting point and, indeed, something I currently explore. In particular, I am interested in the line of work on consumer values, developed among others by Linda Steg and colleagues. European consumers report to strongly endorse “biospheric values” relating to the care for nature and environment. In empirical studies, this strong endorsement often goes hand in hand with intentions to behave pro-environmentally. However, experimental research on this topic is more limited, which is a gap I would like to fill.

In addition, Bouman and colleagues observe that intentions to behave pro-environmentally may fail to translate into actions due to different barriers, including high costs. Consumers may also simply act out of habit or not be aware that their actions are inconsistent with their values. The R2RD tries to address some of these concerns, e.g. by extending the liability period following repair, but more can certainly be done.

What shifts in consumer behaviour do you anticipate as the Right-to-Repair Directive takes full effect, and what might be the long-term economic impacts on the EU market?

Agnieszka Jabłonowska: On its own, the R2RD is only one step towards transforming the EU market but it is part of a bigger picture. For example, the manufacturer’s obligation to repair needs to be seen together with the Ecodesign framework, which was discussed by Anna D’Agostino in an earlier interview.

In addition, the implementation of the R2RD will take quite some time. In general, Member States will have 24 months to transpose and apply it, even if some of them might proceed faster. In addition, the extension of the liability period will only apply to contracts concluded 24 months from the entry of the R2RD into force. Also, the European Online Platform for repair will take some time to implement. The Commission is required to assess the application of the R2RD seven years from now.

Fortunately, this does not mean that the more active Member States can only wait and see. While the R2RD does introduce full harmonisation, this only applies within its scope of application. Moreover, on several occasions, the Directive explicitly makes room for additional Member State action. This partly goes against the common narrative that differing national rules constitute obstacles to the functioning of the internal market. I don’t think that this is always true or that the barriers-to-trade narrative should be the central argument supporting pro-environmental EU legislation. But that’s a topic for another time.

* The interview is based on the version of the R2RD set out in the position of the European Parliament adopted on 23 April 2024.