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Right-to-repair rule comes into force

·Contributor
·3-min read
Washing machines and dryers for sale in a store
The UK government has said that the move will extend the lifespan of products such as washing machines by up to a decade and benefit the environment by producing less waste. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP

The right-to-repair rule came into force on Thursday, meaning that white goods such as refrigerators, freezers and washing machines, as well as TVs, should become easier to repair and cheaper to run.

Manufacturers of such items are now legally required to make spare parts available to consumers buying electrical appliances.

The UK government has said that the move will extend the lifespan of these products by up to a decade and benefit the environment by producing less waste. The rule aims to rid “built-in obsolescence” on all new appliances, whereby they have been designed to break down after a certain length of time.

Adam French, of the consumer group Which?, said that electrical items too often end up in landfill "because they are either too costly or difficult to fix".

The rules "should ensure products last longer and help reduce electrical waste", he said.

New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools when they cannot be fixed anymore, to improve recycling.

Customers will still be able to repair products at home providing that they are “simple and safe” using items such as replacement trays and baskets for fridge-freezers.

"Other parts that involve more difficult repairs will only be available to professional repairers, such as the motor or heating element in your washing machine," French added.

Read more: Are home appliance shortages nearing an end?

Energy minister Anne Marie Trevelyan said: "The tougher standards will ensure more of our electrical goods can be fixed rather than have to be thrown away when they stop working, putting more money back in the pockets of consumers.”

It comes as the government has made changes to energy efficiency standards which will reduce bills by around £75 per year, as well as cutting carbon emissions. Officials have previously said that the UK generates 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste each year.

However, other groups have criticised the rule, saying that it could make white goods more expensive.

Libby Peake, head of resource policy at Green Alliance, told the BBC: “The government hasn't given consumers any such right, as the spare parts and repairability criteria are only directed at professional repairers, not at the people who own products.

"There is also no guarantee that spare parts and repair services will be affordable, so considerable barriers remain to making this the easiest, default option.”

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Meanwhile, John Elliot, executive chairman of Ebac, told the broadcaster that the legislation could make appliances more costly to consumers.

"We don't look to make the cheapest washing machine. We look for one that's going to do the job and last a long time," he said.

"Our focus is reliability – not just a low initial cost. The secret of a product that's easy to repair and long-lasting is in the design."

Watch: How to save money on a low income

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