The European Commission (EC) published draft rules which would impose a range of durability and repairability requirements for smartphones and tablets sold within the EU, its latest effort to cut waste related to electronic devices.

Among the floated measures, manufacturers would be forced to meet specific levels of scratch-resistance, include dust and water protection, ensure a device can survive 100 drops without a cover, and either pass a strict battery endurance test or offer a spare battery to be installed by users.

As a minimum, the EC noted batteries should be able to retain at least 83 per cent of full capacity after 500 charges.

In an apparent bid to ease the repair process, device makers will need to provide access to 15 listed components including covers, speakers and ports to professional repairers by a month after launch.

Along with hardware rules, manufacturers will have to provide at least five years of operating system security updates from the date devices are removed from sale and three years of so-called functionality updates.

Premature replacement
The EC claimed the steep increase in demand for smartphone and tablets in recent years had meant an “in increased demand for energy and materials needed to manufacture these devices on the EU market, accompanied by an increase in their associated environmental impacts”.

It added devices were often replaced “prematurely by users” with insufficient reuse or recycling rates.

If adopted in its current state, the rules cover smartphones, tablets and cordless fixed-line phones. However they do not apply to devices with a “flexible main display which the user can unroll or roll-up” or those handsets designed specifically for high security communication.

Alongside publishing the proposal, which is the culmination of work started in 2020, the EC opened it up for feedback until 28 September. It will have to be approved by other EU bodies before becoming law.