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Are there sparks ahead for electrical OEMs?

As electrical OEMs congratulate themselves on a bumper year for sales, many remain cautious about what 2022 holds in store as new right to repair regulations start to bite.

In some respects, 2021 has been a good year for electrical appliance manufacturers. COVID has brought more investment in homes and created a boom in online purchasing. The market for home appliances grew by 8%, setting a new record in global sales volume. However, as devices and usage grow, the electrical industry is being pushed further into the environmental spotlight. Pressure is on to reduce energy and material consumption, as well as ensure longer product life.

In March 2021, the European Commission introduced its new Ecodesign Measures, a set of regulations to help encourage a more circular and sustainable economy. This calls on manufacturers to make products that are more durable and easier to repair. As a result of the new requirements, manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, televisions and displays must make spare parts and repair documentation more readily available to professional third-party repairers. Spare parts must be available within 15 business days and manufacturers must continue providing them for seven to ten years, depending on product type.

In July, similar rules were introduced in the UK. In both instances, manufacturers must incorporate “repairability” into designs, manufacturing and processes. If they fail to comply, their product lines may be restricted from sale or subjected to recall.

The start of a bigger journey to broader sustainability.

Access by consumers to information on product durability, repairability and even upgradability at the point of sale is considered by some as the appropriate next step. France has become the first EU country to introduce a “repairability index”, designed to encourage consumers to purchase more durable goods and manufacturers to produce more repairable products. If it is successful, the European Commission could contemplate the implementation of a similar repairability index that would be valid across the EU.

In Germany, the federal government is pushing to strengthen its right to repair laws even further — promoting the implementation of legislation relating to smartphones and tablets. This would require manufacturers to provide reasonably priced spare parts and to make security updates available for seven years. It also hopes to convince the EU to follow suit.

In 2022, manufacturers may face recalls of products that are not deemed to be sufficiently repairable.

It is not yet clear how the continuing issues of semi-conductor shortages and COVID supply chain disruptions will impact future availability of parts and products. To help them overcome the challenges, OEMs will have to look at their recall processes with fresh eyes and update and retest their remedial, insurance and recall plans as appropriate.

As the right to repair takes force, manufacturers must also look beyond product compliance to issues that will be thrown up in the field. For example, how to mitigate the product safety and liability risk that comes with consumers opting to repair products on their own rather than soliciting help from an expert. Without doing so, they could see sparks fly with an increase in product liability claims, excessive recalls and more corrective action required.

To learn more about the rise and fall of recall trends and to acquire knowledge about how to plan for one, download the latest edition of our European recall index report.

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