Energy label & Co: EU plans new obligations for smartphone manufacturers

If the European Union has its way, smartphones should finally become more sustainable in the future. This goal is to be achieved with new obligations for manufacturers. In particular, the devices are to be supplied with security updates for longer. Spare parts should also be made available to enable more repairs instead of new purchases. In addition, it will be mandatory for the battery life to meet a certain minimum standard. Last but not least, the EU wants to introduce an energy label for such devices. This should ensure that end consumers can assess how harmful a smartphone purchase is. 2023 should be it so far.

There are already first drafts

The EU’s plans have come to public attention thanks to colleagues at the computer magazine c’t. In particular, the trade journal had access to the first drafts of the new regulation. If one takes a detailed look at the documents, the first thing that stands out is the great importance of an energy label. What we have known so far primarily from large electrical appliances will then also apply to smartphones and tablets from 2023. The requirements that must be met for a good result are to be extremely strict.

Obligation to provide security updates and spare parts

But the new regulation is not only to include the introduction of the energy label. On top of that, manufacturers are to be obliged to offer security updates free of charge for a minimum period of five years. General software updates are to be guaranteed for a minimum period of three years. In addition, the service life of batteries is to meet certain minimum standards as part of the new regulation. According to the first drafts, a mobile device should be able to withstand at least 1,000 charging cycles. If the provider offers the option of being able to change batteries, the regulation only stipulates 500 cycles as a minimum requirement. In addition to the 500 charge cycles, replaceable batteries must also be able to offer a battery capacity of at least 80 percent if the minimum number of cycles is exceeded.

Apart from this, the regulation requires smartphone and tablet manufacturers to additionally make corresponding replacement parts for the respective mobile device available for purchase. Available batteries, microphones and cameras should be able to be used by repair companies to refurbish smartphones. In this way, a defective part should not mean that the entire mobile device has to be replaced with a new one. The supply of technical spare parts must be guaranteed for at least five years. Displays are to be given a special status. The manufacturer must offer them for sale not only to professional repair stores, but also to consumers themselves. For tablets, this period should even be six years. In view of the statistically longer use, this is quite understandable. The EU Commission also puts this forward as an argument.

Transparent pricing policy

On top of that, it is important to the EU Commission that end customers are able to understand what prices they can expect. In particular, costs for spare parts should be publicly visible. It is also not possible to increase prices. If a provider makes repair instructions available in return for costs, these must be appropriate and proportionate. Not only the costs should be transparent. On top of that, customers should be able to see whether the manufacturer has used so-called “critical raw materials” for production. These include, for example, the chemical substances neodymium or cobalt.

Energy label for mobile devices

In order to be able to assess which resources are used in production, the EU wants to rely on energy labels in the future. As we know it from large appliances, a scale from A to G is also to be used for mobile devices. While parameters like the lifetime of batteries can be easily determined by calendar, this will probably be a bit more complicated for the energy label. The label is to be determined on the basis of different factors. For example, the battery’s endurance value plays a role. This is to be determined by dividing the battery life by the battery capacity. In addition to this calculation, other factors will also be used to determine a corresponding label.

So far, we only know energy labels from large electrical appliances like televisions.

Thus, the battery life is also to be put under the microscope for special disciplines. In particular, the battery life during continuous phone calls or video playback is to play a role. The customer should also be able to understand the type of protection against dust and water (IP standard). The same should apply for the robustness of the mobile device. Especially drops should play a big role here. Finally, the energy label should ensure that consumers can get an idea of the environmental friendliness of their device. In contrast to large electrical appliances, the focus is not on power consumption, but rather on “endurance” to a certain extent.

France is seen as a role model

It is quite questionable why Germany does not introduce such a rule on its own, but waits for the EU Commission. France is showing that regulations of this kind can also work at national level. On January 1, 2021, our neighboring country introduced an obligation for manufacturers to inform their customers about repair options for mobile devices. In particular, spare parts such as the battery, camera or display play a major role. The availability and prices of the spare parts required for the repair must also be transparent. It is up to the manufacturers themselves to provide corresponding information on their products. However, high penalties are to be incurred from 2022 if false information is provided.

Finished version in just under a year

Experience shows that the mills grind very slowly in the EU. This will also be the case in this matter. So we will probably have to reckon with it taking another year or so until a final version of the new regulation has been completed. In particular, the EU Commission will have to wait for feedback from the member states. The member states have to give their approval to the plans before they can result in a final regulation. Experience shows, however, that the right of the EU members to have their say only leads to slight changes. We can therefore expect to see the first results in the second quarter of 2022. In view of the growing importance of sustainable electronic devices, we see the project as extremely positive and are curious to see how the smartphone manufacturers will react.

Simon Lüthje

I am co-founder of this blog and am very interested in everything that has to do with technology, but I also like to play games. I was born in Hamburg, but now I live in Bad Segeberg.

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If the European Union has its way, smartphones should finally become more sustainable in the future. This goal is to be achieved with new obligations for manufacturers. In particular, the devices are to be supplied with security updates for longer. Spare parts should also be made available to enable more repairs instead of new purchases. … (Weiterlesen...)

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