EU proposes rules to make it harder to exaggerate how eco-friendly a product is

HHKB Professional Hybrid Type S keyboard on a desk
(Image credit: Future)

The EU is looking to force manufacturers to list whether a product is repairable, and for how long parts will be available, where customers can see it. And alongside the bloc's new draft rules on repairability, there are new proposals to ban greenwashing in product marketing. So if a product says it's eco-friendly, it better be.

The EU's Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee (IMCO) has agreed to a draft report on new powers that aim to make it more difficult to sell rubbish, short-lived products that do nothing good for the environment.

Terms such as "environmentally friendly", "biodegradable", "eco", and "climate neutral" would be subject to strict rules of substantiation, meaning manufacturers can't say it unless it's actually true. The term "natural" will even come under increased scrutiny.

Perhaps the biggest change will be that, substantiated or not, carbon offsetting schemes would no longer be permitted at all. That could strip many products of their environmental claims. Not only that, if a product is said to be "made with recycled materials" it will have to be true of the whole product, not only part of it.

"This means it would no longer be possible to market a product saying it is 'made with recycled material', if only the packaging contains recycled material," the IMCO says.

The second part of the product labelling report is aimed at repairability, and it's looking like a big win for the right to repair.

"All producers would be obliged to market only products that are designed to be compatible with consumables, spare parts or accessories (for example chargers or ink cartridges) provided also by other producers."

That falls in line with the EU's now approved legislation to make USB Type-C chargers a one-size-fits-all solution for most electronics by 2024. Following that, 40 months from when the directive goes into place, laptops will also be required to use USB Type-C chargers. We do see most gaming laptops coming with USB-C chargers today, but not necessarily all of them. Desktop replacements, for example, tend to still come with their own beefier connection.

Peak Storage

SATA, NVMe M.2, and PCIe SSDs on blue background

(Image credit: Future)

Best SSD for gaming: the best solid state drives around
Best PCIe 4.0 SSD for gaming: the next gen has landed
The best NVMe SSD: this slivers of SSD goodness
Best external hard drives: expand your horizons
Best external SSDs: plug in upgrades for gaming laptops and consoles

Also included in the proposed repairability rules outlined today, the IMCO says the planned length of availability for spare parts will have to be made known to customers. 

You can read more in the original proposal from last year here [PDF warning]. In some places it reads like a personal vendetta against ink cartridges for printers, which I'm wholly in support of. But generally it touches on forcing manufacturers to do away with early obsolescence, rubbish repair options, dishonest marketing, and rules to make sure digital goods are kept in good stead for updates.

It's really quite all encompassing, but it's not enshrined in law yet. The draft report has to be approved even before the cross-EU member state Council can discuss it further. We might find that, if the eco and repairability rules do get passed, not every one of the proposals listed in that document that gets the go-ahead.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.