Stronger consumer rights around tech repairs approved by EU Parliament

MEPs back new powers for EU to investigate companies suspected of using forced labour in supply chains

Customers will have greater rights when requesting repairs of faulty products such as smartphones and tablets under a law approved by the European Parliament.

The “right to repair” proposal was backed by a majority of MEPs at a vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday. Under the changes people who opt to have a product repaired within two years of purchase, rather than seek a replacement, will get an extra year of warranty cover.

Ireland and other EU countries have about two years to introduce national legislation to bring the measures into force, which would also apply to household items such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines. René Repasi, a German social democrat who was involved in drafting the law, said it would make opting for a repair over a replacement more appealing.

Barriers such as internal hardware restrictions on an iPhone being opened up and repaired by a non-Apple supplier would “in principle be forbidden” under the law, he said. Apple would have to argue such restrictions were absolutely necessary to protect its intellectual property, which the MEP said would not be easy. “It will most likely be something that will end up in the courts,” Mr Repasi said.


At the final voting session of the parliament before the European elections in June, MEPs also approved a new ban on products that were found to be made using slave or forced labour.

The rules will make EU countries responsible for investigating large companies in their country suspected of relying on forced labour to make their products. If evidence of forced labour is found in supply chains the goods can be banned from the EU and the company fined.

The European Commission will have powers to investigate suspected slave labour outside the EU. If countries, such as China, refuse to co-operate with investigations, the commission can make a ruling to ban products from the EU market on a lower threshold of evidence.

European countries will have three years to adopt the measures, which were backed by 90 per cent of MEPs. Samira Rafaela, a Dutch MEP with the Renew grouping, said she expected companies would take steps to clean up supply chains before the new powers came into force, for fear of being “confronted” with a ban on their products.

Earlier, the parliament voted to rubber-stamp a European Council decision to continue to suspend tariffs on goods coming from Ukraine into the EU, such as grain and other farming imports. The measures, seen as a big economic support to Ukraine in its war with Russia, were backed by 428 MEPs, with 131 voting against it and 44 abstentions.

Two Irish MEPs from the Left grouping, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, were among those who voted against the decision. Ms Daly said she opposed the extension as the trade supports were eroding the income of farmers in the EU and instead benefiting big Ukrainian companies.

The parliament also voted in favour of new fiscal rules that would push national governments to reduce their debt levels. Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian MEP who is co-president of the Green group, hit out at the new rules as “bulls**t”. He criticised the proposals as a backwards step that did not take account of the need for major investment to move to more green economies.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times