Earlier this year, the government announced legislation to cut waste, conserve energy and to increase the longevity of home appliances and other electrical goods.
The legislation came into force at the start of July 2021. One aspect of the new laws is to limit the amount of energy that appliances can consume. But the bigger focus has been on the fact that manufacturers must make spare parts available even after the warranty period has expired, so that people can repair their products at home.
The aim is to help the UK to meet energy targets by making appliances last longer and operate more efficiently. At the moment, the UK dumps 1.5 million tonnes of electrical products a year into landfill, often unnecessarily.
From now on, spare parts must be available within two years of a product going on sale and must remain available for either 7 or 10 years after the appliance has been discontinued, depending on the type of part. Manufacturers will also have to ensure that repairs can be made using ordinary tools and must include a repair manual with products.
The government believes that these laws will extend the lifespan of appliances by up to a decade. But in actuality, these regulations may not help you yet – and here’s why.
The rules only apply to appliances bought on 1 July or after
That’s right. If you bought your new washing machine on 30 June, or in February, or last year, and the door seal gets damaged in use, the manufacturer is not legally obligated to provide a new one for you to buy and fit at home.
If they can’t provide replacement parts and your warranty period is up, you may still have no option except to buy a replacement machine.
The new rules only apply to certain electrical items
You’ll now have the right to repair:
Washing machines and washer-dryers
Fridges and freezers
Televisions and other electronic displays
Some specialist appliances for shops and businesses are also covered.
But these products aren’t covered:
Small appliances such as kettles, blenders and toasters
Laptops and mobile phones
Manufacturers have a two-year grace period before they have to comply
Even if you buy a new appliance now, the rules are not yet enforceable. Manufacturers have a two-year period before they must make replacement spare parts available.
This means spares for an appliance you buy now might not be available until 2023.
The rules only apply to “simple and safe” repairs
If the motor in your washing machine stops working, the manufacturer won’t have to provide a replacement for you to buy. Replacing a motor is considered to be a specialist job and the law is designed to stop people without specialist knowledge from damaging their machines or repairing them unsafely.
That’s why the new legislation will only apply to spare parts like hinges, gaskets, baskets and trays, not to motors, heating elements or other specialist parts.
Other parts will only be available to specialist repairers
If a part of your appliance such as a motor or element fails, it’ll be available to specialist repairers, but not for you to buy.
This means you’ll be able to call out a repairer or take your appliance in to be mended but it doesn’t guarantee that doing so will be more cost-effective for you than buying a new appliance.
It also doesn’t mean that appliances will be built in a way that means specialist repairers can easily mend them.
Available doesn’t mean cheap
The legislation doesn’t cover how much manufacturers can charge for replacement parts. At the moment, there are repair options for all kinds of home appliances but people often don’t choose them because parts can be expensive and once labour is added, it is less cost-effective than putting that money towards a replacement appliance. We don’t know how much the new legislation will change this.
If you buy an appliance with smart functionality, the manufacturer is still not obligated to keep providing software updates for the life of the appliance. However, many brands have said they will continue to provide critical security updates for a decade. Be aware though: it’s not a guarantee.
Do the new laws go far enough?
Some people feel that the new legislation doesn’t go far enough to help consumers to save money, waste less or change their buying habits. So, for the time being, there are steps you can take to protect your appliances and prevent unnecessary expenses.
How to buy well and keep your appliances longer
Look for appliances with longer warranty periods. If you buy an appliance with a two-year warranty period now, by the time that warranty ends, manufacturers will have to make spare parts available for repairs.
Choose appliances from manufacturers with policies on appliance longevity. Miele, for example, has already put out a statement in support of the right to repair across Europe and the UK and says that it “keeps an accessible stockpile of critical spare parts for many of its’ appliances for up to 15 years”.
Choose smaller appliances that advertise repair. Vacuum cleaners are not yet covered by legislation but if you buy an independently made vacuum cleaner such as the Halo Capsule Cordless or the Lupe Pure, you can send it in for a service and refresh instead of sending it to the tip.
Register your appliances. If you register your appliances when you buy them, you’ll be informed of any safety issues or product recalls as soon as they occur. You can do it now on a government-backed website.
Check the energy rating before you buy. The energy ratings system changed in March. Here’s what you need to know.
Read the manual. Once you’ve got your new appliance home, the first thing to do is open the manual and follow the advice inside. Yes, manuals are often badly written or poorly translated but the information they contain is worth the misery of reading.
If your washing machine has a recommended eco cycle or a recommended volume or detergent to use, give it a go. If there are recommended temperature settings for your fridge and freezer, start with those. Appliances vary hugely from brand to brand and if you haven’t updated your machines for a while, the most efficient way to run them has very probably changed.
Maintain your appliances. Clean them regularly. Air out your washing machine. In fact, if you have 10 minutes now, doing these simple things could increase the lifespan of your most important appliances. We’ve also got specific tips on maintaining your dishwasher and your washing machine.