back to article European MPs push for right to repair rules

The European Parliament has recommended better consumer product protection, asking that durable products be durable and repairable by independent workshops. It's not a fait accompli for the right to repair: it's up to member states and the European Commission to put the recommendations into effect. At a plenary session in …

  1. DaLo

    "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

    Can't remember the last time I had an LED die in a product where I would have wished to replace it. In fact I can't see how they could accomplish this as they will always be soldered in in nearly every product.

    ...hmm unless the author meant phone screens, LCD/OLED etc?

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Coat

      Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

      You're right...

      LED's have a pretty long lifespan... Li-ion batteries on the other hand...

      And laptop manufacturers who suddenly decided it would be a great idea to solder the SSD straight to the motherboard... bastards !

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

        Bring back replaceable phone batteries. Not just for longevity but also so that bigger capacities can be installed.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

          "Bring back replaceable phone batteries. Not just for longevity but also so that bigger capacities can be installed."

          You know you're right. It's been years since I had the misery of dropping a phone, having the back of it fly off and the battery go in the other direction.

          The yoof of today don't know the struggle!

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

            "You know you're right. It's been years since I had the misery of dropping a phone, having the back of it fly off and the battery go in the other direction."

            The object of the game is to not drop the phone in the first place. It can quite easily be a lot more expensive than the few seconds it takes to re-fit the battery and the back cover.

            1. wolfetone Silver badge

              Re: Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

              "The object of the game is to not drop the phone in the first place."

              Yeah, because gravity never gets the better of us. Does it?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re : "and LEDs that likewise can't be replaced"

        "And laptop manufacturers who suddenly decided it would be a great idea to solder the SSD straight to the motherboard"

        That started with the original eee PC, but at the time, it was OK, because you could double your storage by sticking in a 4GB SD card...

    2. James 51 Silver badge

      @DaLo I have a roccat keyboard and almost all the leds in the keys died within two months. You'd need a solidering iron to even try to replace them. At least I know why it was on sale at the same price as the ones without leds now.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      OLED screens

      They are short life as they are only LED like, it's really electroluminescent. They wear out.

      Most "LED" TVs are LCD, with various kinds of LED backlights (from ghastly to good). Real LED TVs are either the size of large exhibition hall wall, or nearly as expensive if room sized (Sony Crystal).

      Over-run edge lit LED backlighting does fail.

      CCFL LCD backlight can last 15 years, but goes a little yellow. Cheap LED backlights go purplish and tend to be very uneven.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >Can't remember the last time I had an LED die in a product

      Wish more would. Why do manufacturers feel the need to put megawatt blue LEDs in everything that you are going to use at home?

      I had to go around my bedroom putting black electrical tape over everything so I can sleep

    5. ecofeco Silver badge

      Last phone I bought. Screen died. Right after the very short 30 day warranty.

  2. Adam 1 Silver badge

    > A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

    Oh great, now Samsung have started glueing the lamp inside the fridge into place.

    /Be careful what you wish for

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      > A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

      Oh great, now Samsung have started glueing the lamp inside the fridge into place.

      /Be careful what you wish for

      Other way around: smartphones will be fixable but they'll be the size of a refrigerator.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge
        Megaphone

        > A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

        YES! I'm quite peeved that modern microwave ovens don't seem to come with a little screw-secured hatch to replace the light bulb. Didn't stop me on my one at home - now it lights up a nice eerie green from a little COB LED array. Not touching the one here at work though, people will just have to get buy not seeing what is going on inside.

  3. wolfetone Silver badge
    Coat

    First thought was "Awesome! I can't wait to..."

    The the cold realisation that Brexit means Brexit and that I'll probably never benefit from this rule set in. Depression ensued.

    Thanks Nigel, thank you Boris.

    1. 8Ace

      I wouldn't worry too much

      For regulations such as this, the UK will get what the EU gets even after Brexit. Samsung et al won't be producing a "Brexit Special Edition" of the Galaxy S13 or whatever. In fact the UK will have to toe the line on most EU product regs anyway after Brexit, in other words, obey the rules but have no say in their creation.

      Take back control .. yeah right !

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I wouldn't worry too much

        Given the plummeting pound and lack of regulation, I'm sure Chinese manufacturers will be happy to shift a bit of landfill Android even if known brands adapt to the EU's rules.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I wouldn't worry too much

        "Samsung et al won't be producing a "Brexit Special Edition" of the Galaxy S13 or whatever."

        They might not make parts available. No problem, you say, just buy them from the net. But when those tariff walls go up..

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Samsung et al won't be producing a "Brexit Special Edition"

        They could easily give us the consumer-exploting US or Asian market model instead of the consumer-protected EU model. Especially if the difference between the two is just a few dabs of glue.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Brexit means Brexit and that I'll probably never benefit from this rule

      UK consumer protection regulations are in general better than the EU-mandated minimum standards. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a political opinion.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        ...and both the UK and Europe are light years better than American consumer writs of the Spanish Inquisition.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. McWibble

      Re: Why Just Smartphones....???

      With toothbrushes the case is that they need to be 100% waterproof at all times, without the risk of a seal breaking or gradually wearing away. Given this is something you shove in your mouth, they need the 100% guarantee that they're going to remain sealed.

      But yes, replaceable batteries would be nice if they could sort this issue...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Duffy Moon

          Re: Why Just Smartphones....???

          I have one. It's made by the Chinese company Seago. 2 AA batteries which last a long time and it works very well. Available on a popular shopping website.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why Just Smartphones....???

            Braun make AA-powered toothbrushes as well.

        2. Triggerfish

          Re: Why Just Smartphones....???

          Screw on seal with an o ring will do it. That's pretty common on a lot of dive torches.

      2. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Why Just Smartphones....???

        @ mcwibble:

        My youngest sadly at the ripe old age of 4 figured out how to open the electric toothbrush and periodically would pop the battery into mouth. When fully charged it got spit out pretty quickly, but most of the time he'd wander down to the pit I hide in and note that it needed replacing.

        Now, Lion? that might be a moisture issue - only as it could cause a nasty discharge/overheat condition.

        For what it's worth, the O-ring on the toothbrushes my lot use are standard 1/2" tap kit, and cost about $1 a dozen.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Related topic

    They should also be forced to design products to work with rechargeable cells - lots of the kids toys fail to work when NiMH are used as the voltage is slightly lower.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Related topic

      "lots of the kids toys fail to work when NiMH are used as the voltage is slightly lower"

      And it's not just kids' toys. A lot of other stuff also fails to work with NiMH.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Related topic

      Though there is the fire issue if toy dropped and there is a short. Even Alkaline cells won't set the wires on fire. NiMH will. I've tested this out of curiosity as the toy actually had a warning label not to use rechargeable batteries. I worry about the Lithium Iron PP3 9V replacements, I must get one and test.

      Tesco sells, or has sold DAB radios / Alarms that work on 5V external or 4 x AA cells (less than 6 hrs listening!) They don't work with even fresh NiMH. They can't be fully utilising the Alkaline cells as the end point is 0.9V, so that''s 3.6V. Four charged NiMH are about 5.4V fresh on load and recommend end point of 1.1, that's 4.4V in series to avoid reverse charging a cell.

  6. ratfox Silver badge

    There are good reasons why batteries often cannot be replaced easily.

    With phone and laptop makers competing on who can put the largest battery in the thinnest device, the requirement of having the battery be a single big block is pretty devastating. If the battery is distributed in small chunks around the device, you can get a lot more power with less overheating problems.

    Making devices easy to repair comes at a cost, which is either less power, or bigger sizes. And let's be honest, it's a small fraction of people who care so much about repairing their phones.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Which phones do this?

    2. 2460 Something

      It isn't that people don't care about it, it is that non-replaceable has become the norm.

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      There comes a point where the fact that this year's model is half a bee's dick skinnier really wasn't worth that sacrifice. 7 years back pretty much all phones had replaceable batteries. Some even came with a spare in the box. The difference between then and now is how hardware is plateauing. There was always the case to buy the next model after a few years. Higher resolution screen, better camera, more storage, more memory. The landfill android category is basically gone, even the cheap ones will comfortably run the os and a handful of apps. In turn, we respond by holding onto our phones for longer, so planned obsolescence isn't about how much ram is installed anymore or how crap the camera is but rather knowing that in 3 years the battery will have lost 75% of its capacity and can't be replaced.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Battery Capacity

        It can be 50% after 18months. It's number of cycles and temperature. A sealed in battery will not meet SOGA requirements for all customers.

        An eInk Kindle or Kobo may use same sealed in LiPoly cell as a phone, but charge cycle can be week to a month vs daily for a smart phone with unlimited or high data cap. If your signal is poor and you use WiFi and and BT on all day then you may charge when you get home and again going to bed, and some users will only see 1 year battery life. But an eInk reader with same cell might last 5 years or more. Screens get broken.

        I use my ancient Soiny Z1 with WiFI off, BT off and only about 1 or two calls a week, so I often only charge once or twice a week hence replaceable battery is ironically fine and nearly four years old? (The original).

        My Inspiron 8200 was used from 2002 to 2016, so no surprise it's on fifth battery pack, it's on 3rd keyboard and I replaced case once by buying a scrap compatible model.

        You can buy replacement NEW casings for 2 way mobile radios. Quite old models. Also Yaesu is very good for replacement parts for Amateur and Vertex Radio gear.

        Most consumer Electronics companies don't want stuff to be repairable. There is also the issue that a new TV or BD player is cheaper than a repair. Repairs need to be subsidized to reduce scrapage, so called recycling. But most expert repair people have retired. Most places you'll only get a screen on popular phones replaced. Forget eInk or anything uncommon.

        Fridges and microwaves are rarely fixed, even though they are very repairable. The parts are too dear and to pay proper technician with training, tools, insurance etc is more expensive than a new one. Forget kettles, coffee machines, toasters. Unless you learnt all this stuff 40 years ago and have an attic full of stuff you never threw out to cannibalise for parts.

        So this is worthy, but we need something more radical to have real repair and reuse rather than so-called recycling, were much isn't. Though car batteries are a success. It would be even better if the case was re-usable. They currently are not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        interesting measure of skinniness there. Is that up for inclusion in the El Reg units?

    4. Dave K Silver badge

      >> There are good reasons why batteries often cannot be replaced easily.

      Fair enough, but there's no excuse for sealing the device shut with glue and plastic spot welds (hello Microsoft), and holding the batteries in place with huge quantities of glue either. Plenty of manufacturers have proved that it's easy to make a super-slim device that's held together with screws, and similarly it's possible to hold batteries in place inside with screws as well.

      I don't care if the battery is a weird shape, or several different cells, so long as it's feasible to replace it either yourself, or at a simple third-party shop without having to destroy the product in the process.

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: There are good reasons why batteries often cannot be replaced easily.

      @ratfox - unfortunately you don't give any.

      Making a battery replaceable doesn't mean it needs to be a "single big block" - take a look inside kids toys, fire alarms, torches etc. and you'll find they often taken multiple cells. In industrial/commercial applications similar applies: in my community centre the flush controller in the mens toilets runs off a battery pack that consists of 12 AA batteries soldered together in a big block - each year I can either buy another block of batteries (£££) or (as I have done) replaced the block with a carrier that allows me to use over-the-counter individual cells. However, making stuff removable/replaceable, typically requires a few more components and thus space - the ever shrinking size of the SIM card and Apple's lobbying for non-removable SIM cards to be approved is well documented.

      Yes making devices easy to repair can come at a cost, I suspect OEM's primarily consider production costs, namely the design and manufacture of enclosures that can be opened - this can involve the use of screws (typical business laptop), plastic latches (typical mobile phone with replaceable battery), or even glues - depending upon just how 'easy' you want repairs to be. However, as others have noted increasingly the costs of recycling are being taken into account, hence why we seeing glues being used more. A natural progression, as the industry matures is to also take into consideration the whole life costs - hence why there is such a large secondhand car market that is supported by the manufacturers.

      And yes many people don't think about repair because they expect the phone to work for at least the duration of their contract and a few years longer so that it has a trade-in value. People only typically care about repairability once they have dropped their phone and crack the screen...

  7. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Meh

    "asking that durable products be durable and repairable"

    Surely that's false advertising if your durable products are fragile?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re durable durable

      I'm sure a detailed study (sponsored by the manufacturers' association) would prove, beyond any doubt, that the word "durable" as in "durable goods" is totally unrelated to the fact how durable the goods are, never has been, never will be. Pure coincidence, in the same league as "USB3 up to..." and the good old "up to..." home broadband speeds and don't blame the industry for it, it's those (...) consumers who came up with those claims...

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    "... software should be easier to repair and update"

    Does this mean Windows 10 GPL?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "... software should be easier to repair and update"

      "Does this mean Windows 10 GPL?"

      I think the implication of repairable means that it started out in a working state to which it can be returned after damage.

  9. PatientOne
    Joke

    So I'm the only one who thought 'How do you repair a broken rule?' then wondered why they needed a right to do so...

    The fun of reading headlines litterally...

  10. heyrick Silver badge

    A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

    And who fixes their fridge? I mean proper fix, not just changing the light bulb...

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

      >And who fixes their fridge?

      A good point!

      The problem I've encountered with white goods (eg. fridge/freezer, washing machine, dishwasher, tumble dryer - yes I've had engineers out to fix all of these) is getting them repaired in a 'realistic' timescale. Often domestic concerns mean it is often easier and quicker to simply go out and buy a new machine than sort out the hassles of multiple engineer visits.

    2. Ottman001

      Re: A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

      A few years back, I woke one Christmas Eve to find my fridge wasn't working. I walked into a shop less than a mile from me, asked for a K57 type thermostat, spent £10 and had it repaired before Christmas was ruined. I'm not done feeling smug about that.

      1. myhandler

        Re: A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

        I had a Bosch fridge that was faulty and a local fridge tech said it was an intermittent thermostat, that was inaccessibly buried in the insulation at top of the fridge.

        Bosch refused to accept this and said that part never fails. They insisted on their own guy checking - he said it was fine.

        I had to go back to them and scream at them saying it wasn't OK - bloody fridge was then left with a 24 hour monitor attached.

        In the end they accepted it was faulty and a dumb design, refunded the costs, and I got a new fridge.

        But why did the idiots bury that part inaccessibly ?

        Way OTT but everything is unfixable now.

  11. Named coward

    Glue instead of screws, soldered components instead of connectors etc can be acceptable if they provide a better/cheaper design and if that is what the customers want.

    Using some funky screw (pentalobe), fusing the digitizer to the actual LCD so that breaking the cheap digitizer means you also have to replace the LCD, and similar shenanigans should not be acceptable.

    The guarantee extension while in repair part, or the right to choose a third party repair shop, as well as the general availability of spare parts, I'm all in for.

    1. Nattrash
      Trollface

      Ok, so that means no more MS Surface (https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/19/the_microsoft_surface_glue_teradown/)...

      And we all know how touchy Apple is about strangers fondling their iThingies...

      At least Samsungs products have the decency to incinerate themselves...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lead free solder

    If you want us to repair your broken electronics can we have lead back in the solder? The electronics will last much longer too.

    1. Black Rat
      Coat

      Re: Lead free solder

      <Sigh> I do miss that first joint of the day, that heavy sweet aroma with a hint of singed fingers. The gentle hiss of the sponge and distinctive rattle of a Weller soldering iron being thrown the last inch back into the spring holder.

      Must ...resist.... urge.....don't need to mooch through the junk bins at Hardings Electronics in Cheltenham. Sod it! I'm getting my coat

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Lead free solder

        > <Sigh> I do miss that first joint of the day

        What you mean you've totally reformed and not got a Weller in the workshop/garage/shed for all those DIY projects, that you could simply fire up...

        Interestingly, coming to think of it, among the "for men" products, I've not seen a "hot Weller" aroma Airwick...

  13. John Sturdy
    Childcatcher

    I'm sure a little "lobbying" from the industries concerned will change the MEPs' minds, and they will declare anything repairable to be dangerous (in case children eat the batteries, or something like that; actually that one is a real risk but banning removable batteries isn't the right solution).

    Why don't we have a "brown envelope" (or currency notes) icon?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't get me started.....

    I wish that everything heavy or awkward to lift had proper handles....... elf and safety etc

    washing machines (assuming they aren't on fire) are hard enough to move...

    big screen TVs... - wot no handle(s)

    yes I can fix a ten pence capacitor in a £300 washing machine, and save the difference, but it was designed to take way too long to disassemble, making it redundant landfill, meaning you normally have to buy a new one.....

    miniature electronics, surface mount ICs etc, are one thing, limited charge cycle (only 1000x) batteries being sealed inside are a definite NO NO...

    and

    software writers not finishing the job :- eg MSOffice2013 lack of colour schemes; obviously the team thought they had a longer job adding that bit later, and got moved off the project.... so the choice is black or grey....

    does anyone actually properly test and complete=finish software any longer..?

    <end rant>

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: don't get me started.....

      I'm with you AC. So many retail products are utter shit.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

    One with a sealed compressor unit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

      "One with a sealed compressor unit?"

      You have a smartphone with a sealed compressor unit?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A smartphone should be as fixable as a refrigerator

        "You have a smartphone with a sealed compressor unit?"

        I think so - can't tell for sure cause it's sealed.

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