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Parliamentary questions
8 July 2011
Joint answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission
Written questions : E-001284/11 , E-002875/11 , E-004273/11

The Commission considers that ‘planned obsolescence’ as explained by the Honourable Member can have negative impacts on consumers' interests, on the environment, and on fair competition.

European legislation provides means to combat such practices.

Firstly, Directive 99/44/EC(1) on the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees offers to consumers minimum rights against sellers of faulty products, i.e. of products whose quality and performance are not normal in goods of the same type and cannot be reasonably expected by the consumers. These rights include the right to have a faulty product repaired or replaced free of charge or to obtain, under certain conditions, a refund or a price reduction within a period of two years from the delivery of the product. Member States may adopt more stringent provisions, i.e. longer guarantee periods, in their national legislations.

Secondly, the fact that a trader does not inform the consumer when a product has been designed to have a limited lifetime could be considered as an unfair commercial practice under provisions of Directive 2005/29/EC(2) and the trader could be pursued and punished for this reason.

In both cases it is the competence of Member States to enforce the legislation.

Thirdly, in case of agreement between companies aiming to reduce the lifespan of their products, such an agreement could be considered as a breach of the European legislation on undistorted competition (Article 101 of the Treaty) if it restricts competition, for example by artificially limiting the technical development of the products, and does not fulfil the requirements of Article 101 (3) of the Treaty. Moreover, a dominant firm engaged in a similar behaviour could be liable for abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 of the Treaty), if the behaviour is not objectively justified.

Planned obsolescence clearly runs counter to the objectives set out by the Commission in its Europe 2020 strategy to achieve resource-efficient growth. An important element of resource efficiency is sustainable materials management. The European Commission is currently evaluating the sustainable consumption and production/sustainable industrial policy (SCP/SIP) action plan and in particular the different measures addressing the environmental performance of products. The question of the durability of products, which needs to be addressed from a life cycle perspective, will be considered in the review of the SCP/SIP.

(1)OJ L 171, 7.7.1999.
(2)OJ L 149, 11.6.2005.

Last updated: 2 August 2011Legal notice