To say that the Law 2020-105 of February 2020 on the Circular Economy has turned the French market for electric and electronic equipment (EEE) upside down is an understatement.
The new requirements specific to the sale of EEE in France are explained below.
Mandatory Repairability Rating for EEE placed on the French market
The newly introduced Repairability Rating aims to inform consumers of their ability to repair the EEE they acquire. It has been mandatory since January 2021 although France announced there would be no enforcement before 2022.
The Repairability Rating must be established by the manufacturer or Importer on the basis of specific criteria (such as removability and the price of spare parts) and communicated down the distribution chain to the consumer.
There is no obligation to indicate the Repairability Rating directly on the product itself or on its packaging. Yet, it must be provided to the consumer at the time of purchase, even for online sales.
Addressing ‘planned obsolescence’
The Law on the Circular Economy has introduced new provisions to better address ‘planned obsolescence’, defined as the use of techniques deliberately aimed at reducing a product's lifespan in order to increase its replacement rate.
Notably, the Law introduced prohibitions on techniques (including via software) intended to prevent repair or reconditioning of a device outside its approved circuits and on agreements or practices limiting access by independent professional repairers to spare parts, instructions for use, technical information or any means necessary for the repair of a product.
The Law also contains specific provisions on devices designed to allow self-repair.
Availability of spare parts
Under the Law, a manufacturer of a good must provide information to the distributor on the availability or non-availability of spare parts necessary to repair this good. This information must be passed down by the distributor to the consumer before the sale.
It is mandatory to supply available spare parts to professional distributors or repairers who request them. Beginning January 2022, supply will have to take place within 15 working days of a request.
Also in January 2022, the following requirements will apply to EEE:
- For all electric and electronic equipment, there will be a presumption of unavailability of spare parts if no information on availability is provided;
- For household appliances, small IT and telecommunications equipment, screens and monitors, availability of spare parts will become mandatory for at least five years from the placing on the market of the last unit;
- For ‘indispensable’ spare parts no longer available that can be manufactured by 3D printing, manufacturing plans will have to be provided to professional distributors or repairers upon request whether approved or not;
- Offerors of professional maintenance and repair services will have to provide at least one offer for parts from the circular economy instead of new parts.
Right to software updates
For goods with digital elements, the Law on the Circular Economy Law mandated new requirements, which are an early transposition of EU Directive 2019/771 on contracts for the sale of goods.
These new requirements cover:
- mandatory information on software updates (including security updates) and their installation necessary to maintain the conformity of goods with digital elements;
- the provision of updates necessary to maintain the conformity of the goods for up to two years;
- mandatory information on the period of time that software updates remain compatible with the normal use of the device;
- pre-contractual information on the existence of any restrictions on the installation of software.
Last year, France notified the European Commission under the TRIS procedure of an implementing decree on consumer information relating to software updates for goods with digital elements. This decree will likely be adopted at the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Technical Regulation Information System or TRIS notification is required under Directive (EU) 2015/1535 and aims to prevent barriers to the internal market, which are likely to be created by the introduction of new national technical regulations.
What to expect next
Although the implementing decrees of the Law on the Circular Economy have not yet all been adopted, France's parliament is currently debating a new bill on the “Environmental Footprint of Digital Technology”, which intends to limit the renewal of digital devices by taking even more drastic steps such as:
- requiring manufacturers of electronic devices to offer corrective updates for up to five years;
- allowing consumers, who have installed an update to software supplied at the time of purchase, the ability to restore previous versions of this software for up to two years;
- or extending the legal guarantee of conformity for digital equipment from two to five years.
If you would like to know more about the Law on Circular economy, consult our full dossier online.