UK appliance makers must provide spare parts to consumers for repair from this summer

Manufacturers will be forced to make spare parts available so consumers can fix their own electrical items under new rules.

Appliances such as fridges, washing machines and TVs should last longer and be cheaper to run under the proposals.

Ministers hope the plan will extend the lifespan of products by up to ten years. 

The UK generates around 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste every year.

Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Our plans to tighten product standards will ensure more electrical goods can be fixed rather than thrown on the scrap heap – putting more money back in the pockets of consumers whilst protecting the environment.

“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.”

Energy efficient products

From 1 March, new energy labels have also been introduced which aim to simplify the way energy efficiency is displayed on a new scale from A-G.

Today the vast majority of appliances are classified as A+, A++ or A+++. The new labels will improve the old system, the government said, by ‘raising the bar’ for each class, meaning very few appliances will now be classified as A.

The government maintained that the changes will provide ‘more accurate’ information on energy efficiency, incentivising manufacturers to go further.

They are also designed to encourage consumers to buy more energy efficient products, and boost people’s confidence in the environmental credentials of the products they are buying.

Now the UK is an independent nation outside the EU, the EU emblem on energy efficiency labels has also been replaced with the Union Flag.

Climate Change Minister, Lord Callanan, said: “We can all play our part in ending our contribution to climate change, even when we’re choosing a new electrical appliance.

“The new energy labels we have introduced…will help consumers make more informed decisions about how eco-friendly one smart TV or dishwasher is over another, helping us reduce our carbon footprint and build back greener.”

The new system reflects what was agreed by the UK and the EU member states two years ago. They will apply in Great Britain (GB), while EU rules will continue to apply in Northern Ireland. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy aims to lay regulations before Parliament this spring to bring these requirements into force in GB in the summer.

Commenting on the announcement that manufacturers will be required to make spare parts available for electrical appliances, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said: “Cracking down on planned obsolescence in electrical items is key to tackling the e-waste tsunami, and I applaud the government for taking this step.

“As our Committee highlighted during our recent e-waste inquiry, 155,000 tonnes of e-waste is chucked away in household bins by Brits every year – with no hope of salvaging the item or the precious metals they may contain. Often these metals are integral for Net Zero Britain: crucial for wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels.

“There should be no contest: consumers should have every right to fix items they own. Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.”

Reusing WEEE

Responding to the news, Craig Anderson, CEO at Reuse Network, an organisation that supports reuse charities across the UK, said was looking forward to seeing reuse charities and social enterprises have “better access to spare parts in order to repair and reuse electrical goods”.

He said: “The Reuse Network has been lobbying the EU and UK government for this for decades. We’ve encountered numerous and increasing restrictions in the repair and reuse of electrical and electronic equipment and waste electrical and electronic equipment due to parts failure and it is at times near impossible to reach, let alone fix the broken part inside the machine.

“Our network of charities collects over 334,000 electrical appliances every year to repair, reuse and pass on to low-income households.”

“The promise of reuse was given on leaving the EU – this needs to be delivered for the benefit of the environment and social welfare in the UK.

“The original EU Circular Economy Action Plan, had major implications for the electrical and electronics market and on the resulting waste stream. It is now up to the UK government to develop primary legislation and policies that include stricter product standards, longer guarantees, plus make reparability and durability a characteristic of all electrical products.

“This has to be legislation that prevents ‘planned obsolescence’ in manufacture, and must include practical incentives to increase reuse and repair work. We need to start with the consumers’ attitudes and behaviour and ensure they are properly understood in order to introduce these changes in the consumption of electrical appliances and to reduce waste.”