Bitkom on the „right to repair”

  • Survey: 56 per cent of consumers are already repairing defects of their smartphones
  • European Commission introduces today their new Circular Economy Action Plan

Berlin, 11 March 2020, The European Commission introduces its new Circular Economy Plan today. Bitkom President Achim Berg comments:

„It is undisputed that we need to reduce electronic waste, as the Commission points out in its new action plan. However, it is unclear whether a „right to repair“ will contribute to this objective.

Besides the legal warranty, most manufacturers of electronic products such as smartphones, tablets or laptops are already offering a voluntary, extended warranty. Beyond this, there are other options to repair a device, many of which are already quite popular: As a new Bitkom survey shows, 56 per cent of consumers have had someone fix a defect of their smartphone or mobile phone, or, if possible, have fixed it themselves. A „right to repair“ would not add any value if a repair was perceived as too costly or time-intensive. An obligation for manufacturers to maintain a high variety of replacement parts for years in large quantities would also likely create more waste, rather than reduce it. Instead of settling for symbolic politics, we should focus on rendering existing avenues for repair more attractive. One option would be a tax incentive for repairs, making them more affordable for consumers. Another step would be support for new technologies, such as the manufacturing of replacement parts via 3D printing. Such processes are not only cheaper and more environmentally friendly than flying parts from Asia to Germany, they also provide the opportunity to manufacture parts for older devices.

Devices such as smartphones are also highly complex. They cannot be as flat, lightweight and powerful, as well as water and dust proof, if they also have to be constructed in a way that every user can just open them up. An improper handling of devices furthermore raises security risks, especially with sensitive parts such as the battery. A “right to repair“ therefore would have a direct impact on the functionality of devices, to the disadvantage of the consumer. Everyone can take steps to ensure the longevity of their device. By charging the battery properly, regularly closing apps running in the background, turning off the device when it’s not needed and applying a case and protective film, everybody can contribute to minimising the need for repair. Damage often occurs not due to normal use or faulty materials, but simply because devices are not protected properly.”

Methodology: The survey was conducted by Bitkom Research in January 2020. 1.004 German citizens from the age of 16 where surveyed via phone, among these 878 users of a smartphone or mobile phone. The questions where: “Has your phone every had a defect?”; “How did you proceed in fixing the damage?”