Refurbed Regulatory Update: September 2023by Paul Ploberger - Pádraig Power, on Sep 4, 2023
The Regulatory Update is a recurring series where we bring you a short overview of the newest political developments related to circular economy, sustainability and refurbishment. It is mainly focussed on the EU level because EU laws are applicable in 27 Member States and therefore have a very strong impact on our common sustainability efforts. In our very first Regulatory Update we will touch on the EU Green Deal, new ecodesign rules for smartphones and tablets, a reshuffle in the European Commission and stricter rules for large online platforms.
Let’s start on a positive note : Ecodesign!
On 31st August, the text of the new rules on the Ecodesign for Smartphones and Tablets was published in the Official Journal of the EU. The publication is the last step before the new rules become applicable across the EU (on 20th June 2025). The text is a powerful tool for improving the circularity and environmental footprint of smartphones and tablets. As part of EUREFAS, we have been very active on this file, getting our voices heard by decision-makers on issues such as criteria for access to repair and maintenance information/maximum delivery times for spare parts, software blockers, replacement of serialised parts and others.
Important European sustainability regulatory updates in summer and autumn, 2023.
- resistance to accidental drops or scratches, and protection from dust and water
- sufficiently durable batteries, which can withstand at least 800 cycles of charge and discharge while retaining at least 80% of their initial capacity
- rules on disassembly and repair, including obligations for producers to make critical spare parts available within 5-10 working days, and for 7 years after the end of sales of the product model on the EU market (also includes access to repair information)
- availability of operating system upgrades for longer periods (at least 5 years after the product has been placed on the market)
- non-discriminatory access for professional repairers to any software or firmware needed for the replacement
- display information on their energy efficiency and usage
Overall, this is a great win for refurbishment and for more sustainable consumption!
*Mark your calendar*
The yearly State of the European Union speech (or “SotEU” in short) by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to take place on the 13th September. This is a much-awaited event where she will give her assessment on the current state of the EU and the challenges that lay before us in the coming year. Since the next EU elections (and therefore the end of this Commission’s mandate) are less than a year away, rather than announcing big new plans, von der Leyen is expected to list some of the main achievements of her tenure.
*New Green Deal Boss*
Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Climate Action Policy (and EU Green Deal chief), Frans Timmermans, formally submitted his resignation on 22nd August. He will return to The Hague to lead a coalition of the Labour and Green party into the upcoming Dutch general election in November. His coalition is head-to-head with the coalition of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who already announced his resignation from politics. Timmermans’ successor for his portfolio on the EU level will be fellow Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, currently responsible for interinstitutional relations.
But not for long. Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte has already nominated a replacement: former Finance Minister, Wopke Hoekstra. He was a staunch opponent of sharing the financial burden of the coronavirus crisis among EU nations via jointly issued “corona bonds”, which earned him the nickname “Mr. No”.
On 29th August, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that she would give the climate portfolio to Hoekstra. This is quite a divisive move - Hoekstra belongs to the conservative party, which is part of the EPP group. The same group that has tried to slow down/obstruct new environmental laws (his predecessor, Frans Timmermans, belonged to the S&D group). Furthermore, Hoekstra has not shown any special interest in climate policy before. His confirmation is therefore not a done deal yet - he has to be approved by the European Parliament first. If he is approved, he would head the EU’s climate action until the end of the Commission’s current mandate, which runs until 31st October 2024.
*And another new Commissioner*
As part of her designation as new Commissioner, Ms Iliana Ivanova will be questioned by a European Parliament committee on 5th September. If she is approved, she will become the new Commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, thereby replacing Mariya Gabriel, who resigned on 15th May to become Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bulgaria.
*DSA enters into force*
Starting from 25th August, the world’s biggest tech platforms — most of them American, but not all — will be on the hook for punishing fines if they fail to comply with Europe’s rulebook for all things content-related, the Digital Services Act. Platforms with more than 45 mil. active users each month - from Elon Musk’s X to Facebook, Google, Amazon, TikTok and even Europe’s own Zalando (though it disagrees with its inclusion) - will need to stick to the new obligations. Basically, they will have to prove they can rapidly remove illegal content like terrorist propaganda; clamp down on disinformation and bullying; and clarify their terms and conditions, among other obligations. Refurbed is not affected by this round of obligations since we don’t have such high user numbers (yet).
*A Marshall Plan for Ukraine?*
The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Portugal argued on 30th August, that “Europe will need to play a key role, as the U.S. did with the Marshall Plan, to be there and help reconstruct Ukraine.” This would not only include financial aid, but also expertise in setting up democratic and sound administrations. A prerequisite is to change the view on EU enlargement: the EU should acknowledge that enlargement is in its fundamental security interest, the three argue. They advocate for a new enlargement process in several steps, technically resulting in a “Europe of several speeds” as floated by French President Emmanuel Macron.
A proposal on how to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction, the climate transition and energy interconnection issues includes a possible financial transaction tax and a corporate sector levy (additional contributions from EU countries based on company profits).