In view of the increasingly noticeable effects of the climate crisis, the promotion of environmentally friendly consumption is also moving noticeably up the EU agenda. As part of the new action plan for the circular economy, the European Commission has now proposed two further directives to put a stop to greenwashing, support sustainable purchasing decisions and strengthen consumers' rights and options with regard to low-cost and simple repairs.
There is a high level of willingness among consumers to take personal responsibility and recognise the role of their own decisions in combating climate change, both at EU level and in Austria. The first two packages of measures on the circular economy were already published by the EU Commission in March and November 2022. Essential components of the first package were the Regulation on Ecodesign Requirements for Sustainable Products and the Directive on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition through better protection against unfair practices and better information. The second package contained proposals for the Regulation on Establishing a Union Certification for Carbon Removals, and the Communication on Biodegradable, Biobased and Compostable Plastics. On 22 March 2023, the EU Commission has now presented the proposal - actually announced much earlier - for a third package of measures, which includes the Right to Repair and the Directive on Environmental Claims (Green Claims).
Against Greenwashing and for making sustainable purchasing decisions more attractive
The Directive on Environmental Claims (Green Claims) is intended to prevent greenwashing and misleading environmental claims on the basis of common criteria. It complements the proposal for a directive to empower consumers for the green transition. In addition to the general ban on misleading advertising, more specific rules for environmental claims are laid down. According to a study by the EU Commission in 2020, 53% of all environmental claims within the EU were classified as vague, misleading or unsubstantiated, and 40% were not substantiated at all. The new directive aims to put a stop to the rapidly growing jungle of private and public environmental labels. In order to ensure that information is reliable, comparable and verifiable for consumers, the regulations not only focus on the verifiability of claims, but also on their communication. The proposal should not only be beneficial for consumers, but also for businesses: If consumers can clearly see which companies are actually making efforts in terms of environmental friendliness, these companies will gain a competitive advantage.
Implementing a right to repair
The long announced proposal on common rules to promote the repair of goods aims at ensuring and facilitating the reparability and re-use of products during and especially beyond the warranty period. The only exception is when a repair actually turns out to be more expensive than replacing the product. The new package aims to make “repair” an easy and attractive option. The proposal includes, for example, a European quality standard for repair services and a matchmaking repair platform to connect consumers and repairers online.
AK continues to demand sustainability in production and consumption
Already at the presentation of the first package of measures in March 2022, AK emphasised that the proposed legal acts have to be improved or concretised in some places in order to ensure a fair design of the ecological transition. In this sense, it welcomes the presentation of the two new, supplementary directives by the EU Commission. However, with regard to the right to repair it should be noted that the main focus should remain on the longer durability of products. After all, if premature wear and tear of products is counteracted, there would be no need for repair in the majority of cases. From AK’s point of view, in order to ensure the social compatibility of the regulations, it must be ensured that consumers can afford to decide in favour of sustainable products.