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  • Writer's picturePeers for the Planet

It is time we had the right to repair


Baroness Helene Hayman

Published in BusinessGreen: 12 March 2024• 3 min read


Baroness Hayman sets out why she is proposing an amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill which would make it easier and cheaper to repair electronics


The runaway success of BBC One's The Repair Shop speaks of a much wider public appetite for a society that throws away less and mends more.


Research has found that two thirds of people are regularly frustrated by products that break before they should, and a similar proportion believe products are currently too difficult to get repaired.

 

We've all experienced the frustration of being told that our washing machine will cost twice as much to fix as it would to replace, or that our phone is destined for the bin because we can't get the latest software update. But being forced to throw-away our things is more than just an irritation, it's bad for our pockets and bad for our planet.


This week in Parliament, we have an opportunity to take positive action. Together with members from across parties in the House of Lords, I am proposing a Right to Repair Amendment that would make it easier and cheaper for us to repair our electronics and protect consumers from products that break easily and then can't be repaired. The amendment would mean that manufacturers would be obliged to make spare parts and repair information is accessible to all, and available for a longer time.


Jay Blades, who presents The Repair Shop, supports the proposals. "We need to fix our throw-away society," he said recently. "Too often we buy something new and, if it doesn't work, we are forced to just throw it away and get another one - [meaning] one more thing destined for landfill. More and more people are wanting to repair their things, reviving the ethos of ‘make do and mend'. But too often these efforts are blocked by manufacturers' badly designed products or unaffordable spare parts. Extending a right to repair would help us rediscover the joy and skill of restoration, repair and redesign."

 

And what's good for consumers is good for the environment too. Objects that cannot be mended often end up in landfill, and more virgin materials are mined and processed to create brand new items. The UK has had a proud record on environmental issues and developing the green economy, but we are per capita the second largest e-waste producer in the world and we urgently need to change that situation.  


A Right to Repair would help fix our wasteful system and support the growing green economy around re-use and repair, from leading commercial businesses to the grassroots repair shops reviving our highstreets. The thinktank Green Alliance estimates that a further 450,000 jobs could be created across the country by 2035 if the government transforms its approach to the repair and renew industry.

 

This approach is strongly supported by the Design Council - they point out that thoughtful and intentional design is essential to making repairability a reality. Choosing durable materials, using screws instead of adhesives, clear user guides, and designing circularity into business models to allow for easy returns or ordering of components, are all essential factors. The Design Council's research shows there are 1.97 million people working in design in the UK. Government can help harness that power by providing the right regulatory framework and incentives to industry to support brands to adopt repair principles successfully.


Brilliant examples of design for durability and repairability are already out there. But the pace is too slow, and nowhere near meeting the public appetite for change.

 

The proposed amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill before the House of Lords this week is an opportunity to give consumers these simple rights - the government needs to get behind it and help lead a repair revolution that would help us all.

 

Baroness Helene Hayman is a crossbench peer in the House of Lords

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