The EU wants to mandate improved phone battery life and spare parts.
Devices may also receive a new energy label.
The European Commission is working to improve the battery life of phones and tablets, as well as the availability of spare parts. European regulators plan to require phone manufacturers to supply at least 15 different parts to professional repairers for five years after a device is first sold, according to draught proposals released this week. Customers will also have five years of guaranteed access to replacement batteries, displays, chargers, back covers, and even SIM / memory card trays.
The draught proposals aim to improve smartphone and tablet repairability while lowering their carbon footprint across Europe. According to the Financial Times, extending smartphone lifecycles by five years would be roughly equivalent to removing 5 million cars from the road. The EU contends that requiring manufacturers to create products that are more durable and easier to repair will reduce e-waste while also improving recycling rates and the reuse of materials used to manufacture devices.
If the proposals are adopted across Europe later this year, a new energy label on smartphones and tablets will be introduced, similar to the labels on TVs and white goods. The energy label will indicate a phone’s or tablet’s likely battery life, as well as information on a device’s protection against water and dust, and even rate a phone’s resistance to accidental drops.
If manufacturers are unable to supply batteries to consumers for five years, they will be required to pass a battery endurance test instead. These will ensure that devices retain 80% of their rated capacity after 1,000 full charge cycles. Manufacturers will also be required to ensure that software updates have no negative impact on battery life.
The rules will not apply to phones or tablets with a flexible main display “that the user can unroll and roll up partially or completely,” or smartphones designed for high-security environments. In any case, these new rules are bound to improve smartphone battery life and repairability, particularly for budget or low-cost devices.
The draught regulations follow a proposal made earlier this year by European Union lawmakers to require a universal charger for mobile phones and other devices. According to the European Parliament, unused and discarded chargers account for approximately 11,000 metric tonnes of e-waste in Europe each year.
While the draught proposals aim to improve repairability and reliability, the Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) claims they fall short. “While generally encouraging,” ECOS says, “the proposals should be significantly improved.” “The availability and interchangeability of certain spare parts places unnecessary constraints on do-it-yourself repairers.”
ECOS, an international non-governmental organisation that advocates for environmentally friendly standards, also wants manufacturers to be required to provide durable batteries and spare parts as standard, rather than having the option to choose between the two. “ECOS believes that consumers deserve both, not one or the other, as is currently proposed.”