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  • Writer's picturePeers for the Planet

More consumer rights and powers needed for net zero

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers bill aims to enhance consumer powers and protections, including in respect of unfair commercial practices. As introduced, it did not contain any explicit environmental content, despite the significant role consumers will play in reaching net zero and addressing the nature crisis through their decisions about when and how they make purchasing decisions.


As a result, the bill offered an opportunity for Peers to consider issues which would support some of these behaviours, including in relation to the lack of consumer rights around the right to repair, the lack of information on products’ environmental impacts, and the need for transparency around the environmental impacts of financial services.

Why address the right to repair?

On Wednesday 13 March, cross-party Peers debated an amendment to the bill which would make it easier and cheaper to repair electronics.


The UK produces 23.9kg (more than 50lbs)[DF1]  per capita of electrical and electronic waste each year - more than any other country in the world apart from Norway (with some estimates suggesting we will overtake Norway next year).  


Consumers currently have very limited rights of repair. UK legislation applies to a small range of products, with many spare parts limited to professional repair firms; and no statutory rights to ongoing support.


The amendment proposed would have required government to produce a strategy to enhance consumers’ right of repair, put a stop to restrictive practices which undermine consumer efforts to repair and continue to use products, and set a timetable to ensure consumers can more easily and affordably repair their electrical goods.


Next steps on right to repair...

Although the Government did not accept the amendment, it committed to setting out how existing departmental initiatives interact to support right to repair, to consider the implications of new right to repair EU regulations in Northern Ireland for the rest of the UK, and to work with Peers to move forward existing work.


During the progress of the Bill in the Lords, the amendment received widespread support from both public and political figures, and from across the parties.

This demonstrates to government the strong cross-party and public concern and desire to further this important agenda – to provide consumers with simple consumer rights to lead a repair revolution that will help us all, and the planet.


"We need to fix our throw-away society. 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 things 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." Jay Blades, The Repair Shop, BBC


“I simply do not believe that the progress made already is sufficient or that there are insuperable barriers to doing what needs to be done. The argument that we can rely on progress that is glacial at best simply does not hold water. Everyone seems to think that this is a good idea. No one argues against having better-designed and easier-to-repair products. It is just that no one seems to be willing to grasp the nettle to do anything about it. This amendment would make sure that they did.”.

Baroness Hayman, Chair, Peers for the Planet


“When the Committee reported on e-waste in 2020, each UK household had 20 unused electronic items hoarded at home, and there were enough unused cables in UK households to go around the world five times. Despite these extraordinary statistics, it appears the Government is yet to grasp fully the scale of the e-waste tsunami. Four years on [from the committees report], we are yet to see many of these initiatives make it into policy or be reflected in its current consultation on e-waste.”

Rt Hon Philip Dunne, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman MP, Letter to Defra


You can read Baroness Hayman making the case in an article in Business Green or watch her speech in parliament [17.49] to introduce the amendment in the Lords


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