European lawmakers may end up forcing the tech industry to make their smartphones, tablets, and laptops easier to repair and upgrade in order to cut down on electronic waste.
The push comes from a plan the European Commission adopted on Wednesday to pave the way for an environmentally sustainable “climate neutral” economy. To pull this off, the European lawmakers are aiming to enact “right to repair” policies in the region by 2021 so consumers will hold on to their electronic devices for a longer time, lessening the need to buy new hardware.
“Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers,” European Commissioner Frans Timmermans said in yesterday’s announcement.
The plan itself specifically calls out mobile phones, tablets, and laptops and the need for regulatory measures to ensure the products are durable and upgradeable and also easy to recycle and reuse. “Value is lost when fully or partially functional products are discarded because they are not repairable, the battery cannot be replaced, the software is no longer supported, or materials incorporated in devices are not recovered,” the plan says.
The push for right to repair arrives as the Commission is reportedly mulling over requiring smartphones to be built with easily replaceable batteries. That would be a massive change for the industry, considering all the major handsets, including the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy, have batteries that are firmly sealed inside the product, which requires special tools and know-how to get in.
The big question is how the EU will enact the right-to-repair policies. For the past decade, the EU tried to get the tech industry to voluntarily adopt a common charger for smartphone products. The approach helped eliminate dozens of charging port standards down to three: USB Type C, micro-USB, and Apple’s Lightning port. Now many European lawmakers are demanding the Commission pass legislation to effectively force Apple to adopt USB Type C.
For now, the Commission hasn’t specified how it’ll implement the right-to-repair policies. But European lawmakers plan on cooperating with businesses and stakeholders to get them on board with the plan.