Right to repair rules due to be introduced in Great Britain this summer

United Kingdom

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ("BEIS") have published their response to the recent consultation on eco-design and energy consumer information requirements for electrical goods - a display of support for the proposals across all the product ranges in question. BEIS has announced that they intend to implement the new eco-design requirements in GB by the summer of 2021, which will lead to tighter rules for how much energy white goods and other electrical equipment such as TVs use, will amplify information sharing with customers on usage, and will require goods to be sold ‘as a service’ for example with the inclusion of spare parts and repairs.

Background

Eco-design relates to efficient energy-related products through minimum energy performance standards and includes material consumption, emissions, pollution and waste generation, durability, repairability, recyclability and ease of material recovery. Energy labelling provides consumers with information on the energy performance of products at the point of sale.

As an EU Member State, in the winter of 2019, the UK voted in favour of new eco-design and energy labelling requirements for a package of energy-related products. Some of these requirements took effect before the end of the Transition Period, so were retained on 1st January 2021.

In September 2020, a consultation was published on the proposal to implement the requirements for seven product categories, which come into force in the EU through 2021 (see our previous publication here). In summary, the consultation request for views and responses were associated with energy labelling, resource efficiency, circular economy and professional repairer registers and the UK are now proposing to put in place further laws on energy efficiency and eco-design and labelling of goods reliant on a source of energy. The consultation proposals reflected the product-specific requirements that the UK previously voted for at EU-level.

As noted in the consultation document, domestic UK legislation would be needed if the UK were to put in place requirements akin to those previously put forwards as a Member State and give them effect in Great Britain. Northern Ireland will continue to be subject to the EU eco-design and energy labelling rules in accordance with the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland whereby amendments to the relevant EU regulations will automatically apply.

Changes afoot

The eco-design requirements include higher minimum energy performance standards as well as new material efficiency and information requirements, measures regarding the availability of spare parts and maintenance information to facilitate repairs, including:

  • update eco-design requirements for electric motors, household washing machines/washer-dryers, household dishwashers, household refrigeration and electronic displays. The new eco-design requirements include measures to increase minimum energy performance standards and material efficiency,

  • introduce eco-design requirements for welding equipment and commercial refrigeration for the first time, and

  • introduce energy labelling requirements for commercial refrigeration for the first time.

The Draft Regulations that were consulted upon are still subject to change, although BEIS states that they are expected to be compatible with the technical specifications set out in the equivalent EU requirements.

Implications

Figures published indicate that the UK currently produces 1.45 million tonnes of electrical waste each year[1]which is expected to reduce where goods are sold as a service as manufacturers will be legally obliged to make spare parts for products available to consumers. The appearance of electrical goods will also be impacted as consumers will become familiar with energy usage data on a wider range of goods. 

Meanwhile, from 1 March, retailers have been required to display a re-scaled energy label alongside washing machines, dishwashers, household fridges and electronic displays when placed on sale. Labelling has simplified the way energy efficiency is displayed on a new scale from A-G where in the past, the majority of appliances are classified as A+, A++ or A+++. The new labels will increase the efficiency levels for each grading with the expectation being very few appliances will now be classified as A leaving more space for energy efficient products to be included in the future.

When will the expected changes come into force

The Draft Regulations will be laid before Parliament, which is proposed to take place as soon as practicable and in the spring of 2021 with the aim of bringing the new measures into force this summer. This is an ambitious timetable, but suggests some momentum behind the proposals. 

As regards coordination of changes to EU provisions and GB provisions, there will be a delay between the equivalent requirements applying in the EU and NI (from 1 March 2021 for household dishwashers, household washing machines/washer-dryers, household refrigeration, commercial refrigeration and electronic displays and July 2021 for electric motors) and when they begin to apply in GB. For example, for welding equipment, the EU’s regulation came into force on 1 January 2021.

BEIS' response to the consultation highlights that the EU's technical amendment procedure also impacts on various EU regulations which were retained in GB post-Brexit, specifically, the eco-design requirements for servers and data storage products, and the updated energy labelling requirements for electronic displays, washing machines, domestic refrigeration, and dishwashers. BEIS are preparing a statutory instrument to incorporate these amendments into retained EU regulations, which they intend to consult stakeholders on in future.

The changes come at a time when the EU is consulting (between 17 March and 9 June 2021) on revising the Ecodesign Directive in accordance with its Sustainable Products Initiative, which could of course further impact depending on responses.

Comment

The environmental impact of product manufacture, usage and end of life of goods is under increasing scrutiny, with tightened laws to increase producer responsibility and engage less energy usage incentives. Business and Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Going forward, our upcoming energy efficiency framework will push electrical products to use even less energy and material resources, saving people money on their bills and reducing carbon emissions as we work to reach net zero by 2050”.

Whether future EU standards regarding wider sustainability strategies are implemented in GB post the end of the transition period remains to be seen, but in respect of eco-design and energy labelling, BEIS have so far kept to their earlier expressed intentions to implement previously supported EU rules.

Any businesses intending to place affected goods on the GB, NI and EU markets  should monitor developments.