Impossible to miss, the French government implemented the reparability index on many devices starting on January 1st 2021. This seismic shift puts the subject of phone, appliance, and other electronic device repair at the forefront of the conversation.
It’s quite unprecedented that the French government was able to implement this reparability index in just 2-3 years. Manufacturers had to adapt very quickly to these new standards. In addition to the energy ratings we are used to, we now have an idea of the repair potential for your device, in the event of breakdown, or breakage.
What’s the point of the Repairability Index ?
France is the first major player to upset the applecart with at repairability index that allows a more responsible eye for buying electronic equipment purchases. The aim is to promote phone and appliance repair as an alternative to the excessive replacement of our devices. The goal obviously being to fight against climate change by reducing the impact of short-lived goods.
As of January 1, 2021, the repairability index covers five major families of appliances: side-load washing machines, smartphones, televisions, laptops, and electric lawnmowers. In November 2022, the reparability index will be extended to four new types of appliances: top-load washing machines, dishwashers, pressure washers and vacuum cleaners (corded, robot, and cordless).
Whether manufacturers like it or not, whether they participate or not (under the pretense of sensitive or confidential data), this repairability index would be implemented on January 1, 2021, and it was.
But, why aren’t tablets added along with the other new products to be covered? Because a draft index of repairability index for tablets (and phones) at the European level was just published August 31st, to be put in place in 2023. Repair-friendly design (ease of access to parts) as well as availability and price of parts will also be part of this new regulation. Additionally , refurbishers will be classed as professional repairers, which gives them the same rights (namely information and parts purchasing).
What is the Repairability Index
The repairability index is a score out of 10 that each device in the aforementioned categories receives. The higher the score, the more repairable the device is and therefore the longer it will last you. A color code gives you an idea of the grade of dream device: from red to orange, passing through yellow, light green and dark green for the most repairable products.
To establish this score out of 10, five criteria were pre-established by the French government steering committee (here for smartphones):
- Documentation: All the data provided by the manufacturer such as serial numbers and references, disassembly diagrams, technical instruction manuals, software, diagnostics, etc.
- Disassemblability: Ease of access to the most commonly worn-out or broken parts such as the battery, screen, cameras, and charging ports. For sub-criteria, there is the number of tools needed (Looking at Apple and their proprietary Pentalobe screws!), the fastener characteristics… You get it, the longer the disassembly is, the lower the score.
- Availability of spare parts: The number of years that major spare parts are available to producers, dealers, repairers, and consumers. Self-repair (ie availability to consumers) accounts for 1/3 of the score!
- Price of spare parts: An important criterion but one that changes over time and over the life of a device. And the supply shortages are shaking things up, as was the case with graphic cards, the PS5, and Xbox Series X. The higher the price of spare parts, the less attractive repair is…
- Specific criteria: Assistance on the use, updates as well as their duration (Android devices are often to abandoned after 2-3 years while Apple still updates the iPhone 8 released in 2017 with iOS 16) and even the possibility to wipe your device (for resale as a secondhand or reconditioned device for example).
These many criteria, with percentages assigned for each subsection, help determine a final score out of 10. But who determines these scores? Well… It’s the manufacturers themselves!
This is a point that HOP (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée) raises, as the impartiality of this rating is bound to be questioned. HOP is an association created in 2015 that aims to mobilize citizens, companies, and politicians towards sustainable products. Further, the ADEME (Agency for the Environment and Energy Management) is analyzing this system to learn about its first year’s impact.
At the moment, there is no official committee for reparability index scoring. On iFixit’s side, we haven’t yet noticed any blatant lies from manufacturers playing the game. Why? First of all, because a fine is hanging over their heads. Even if the French government has been lenient for 2021. But their brand image is also at stake. Too many bad or false reparability scores would end up tainting their reputation.
Does this encourage brands to make an effort? In a way, yes, for some! We are thinking in particular of Samsung, which has made many disassembly manuals available in France, and of Apple potentially changing the iPhone 13 front camera replacement procedure to increase its rating from 4.6 to 6.7. But it is obvious that there is still much work to be done.
The stars of the reparability index
To establish this reparability index, the French government consulted many experts. The manufacturers were of course part of it, but equally many companies and associations chose to join this project. This is the case for example of HOP and of course of iFixit, among others. Everyone had a role to play in working groups each dedicated to one of the five pre-established product families. Naturally, the distribution was done , according to each stakeholder’s the experience.
iFixit participated in the discussions about the smartphone repairability index. We don’t claim to have finalized the criteria, but we are proud to have been able to contribute to this project.
« Participating in this debate was self-evident for iFixit since the right to repair is a fight we have been fighting for many years now. Thanks to our long experience and research, we have long-since been able to establish our own repairability score . It is therefore natural that we wanted to share our knowledge in order to make this reparability index as clear as possible for its users. We are also co-founders of Right to Repair.eu, along with ECOS, EEB, The Restart Project and others, in order to promote self-repair throughout Europe.»Maarten Depypere, Repair policy engineer at iFixit Europe, who participated in the discussions in Brussels and Paris
A year later, what’s the future for reparability?
It has been more than a year since the reparability index was implemented in France. HOP has established a very complete report on these first months spent with this new index.
This index made it clear that repairability differs greatly from one range of products to another. Indeed, disassembling a smartphone is totally different from a washing machine, which often has a much better repairability rating. And manufacturers have generally played along, offering repair manuals or spare parts. We can for example cite Google, whose Pixel shines in the repairability ranking, and with whom we have set up a partnership with official Google spare parts.
This report also shows that about 55% of French people have already heard about the reparability index and further, its stakes. So, it seems that this index will be taken into account as they buy.
In 2024, the repairability index will likely evolve and become the sustainability index. The reparability index will then become just one of the criteria of this more global program. The goal is to get products that have a longer life span and are no longer thoughtlessly “disposable”.
Some European countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, etc.) have also started discussions for their own reparability index, but so far this has not led to actual requirements. A European repair score would, in the long run, be an ideal option for both consumers and manufacturers. Visibility can only be better. A bit like the EU’s 2-year required warranty, a universal reparability index would create the same rights within the European Union. It would also allow manufacturers to harmonize information and products in Europe.
In short, France is taking a (very) big first step and we hope that this will help to change mentalities regarding overconsumption.