The EU is set to introduce “right to repair” laws that could also force OEMs to let you update your smartphone

The EU is set to introduce “right to repair” laws that could also force OEMs to let you update your smartphone

The EU has been taking a hardline stance when it comes to climate change, including plans to vote on legislation that would see standardized charging across the board when it comes to smartphones. The EU has adopted a new Circular Economy Action Plan today, which includes a number of goals that the EU will, as a whole, strive towards. One such goal on that list is introducing the “right to repair” for EU citizens. In reading the Action Plan, I noticed something particularly interesting.

Focus on electronics and ICT as a priority sector for implementing the ‘right to repair’, including a right to update obsolete software.

Firstly, the definition of “right to repair” may be different from what you are familiar with. The “right to repair” outlined in this document specifically refers to the availability of parts for professional replacement – not the replacement by a regular consumer. There is no legislation associated with this document, and as such, there are currently no stipulations as to how long exactly companies should make parts available for, through what means, or for what types of devices.


This goal appears to be an extension of similar rules introduced in October of last year, which pertained to freezers, fridges, and other home appliances. In the case of home appliances, manufacturers will need to ensure they supply spare parts for such machines for up to 10 years. With smartphones being as fast-moving and volatile as they are, it may not be quite 10 years in that industry.

Value is lost when fully or partially functional products are discarded because they are not repairable, the battery cannot be replaced, the software is no longer supported, or materials incorporated in devices are not recovered. About two in three Europeans would like to keep using their current digital devices for longer, provided performance is not significantly affected.

Given that the European Union is pushing for sustainability and eco-friendly practices, it will come as no surprise that the associated annex hopes to have legislative and non-legislative measures establishing a new “right to repair” in place in 2021.

The EU’s Action Plan is an iteration of a previous plan that had 54 goals and was instantiated in December of 2015. All of those goals have since been accomplished or are currently being implemented. “There is only one planet Earth, yet by 2050, the world will be consuming as if there were three,” is how the document starts. While some actions may seem drastic, the EU doesn’t believe that to be the case, even if they expect pushback from global tech giants.

But how can the “right to repair” be enforced when it comes to software updates? Really there would appear to be only one solution, and that would be to allow the bootloader unlocking of smartphones released in the EU. Because of GDPR requirements, many manufacturers such as OnePlus already have EEA variants of their software, so this wouldn’t introduce fragmentation that doesn’t already exist. Admittedly, I can foresee manufacturers getting around that by releasing an update that would unlock the bootloader once a device reaches EOL, which would ultimately solve the issue whilst also remaining rather useless for developers and smartphone modders on our forums.

If you’re interested in reading the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, you can check it out below. It has information pertaining to not just the right to repair laws, but other plans that the EU will try to take action on as well.

Source: European Commission

About author

Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm the senior technical editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.

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