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Independent testing programme on premature obsolescence


The objective is to prepare an independent testing programme to help identify issues related to premature obsolescence. The programme could be used by relevant stakeholders, such as, for instance, testing bodies, consumer organisations or product designers. It should focus on a group of consumer products for which the issue of obsolescence, including aspects such as the possibility of repair, upgrade and reuse, is important from the resource efficiency point of view. The methodology used to select this group of products should be convincingly explained. Where the issue of product durability encompasses interoperability and software support aspects, these should be addressed as well; however, the lifetime of software should not be the sole focus of the actions. A research component should be included to identify key aspects to be tested and to validate the testing programme in several case studies. An arrangement should be made that would enable inputs (e.g. examples of premature obsolescence or of testing methods) from a variety of stakeholders throughout the course of the project. Possible implications for standardisation should be addressed. The actions should be tackled by a multi-disciplinary consortium, including representatives of relevant stakeholders such as researchers, consumer organisations, testing bodies, manufacturers and repair service providers. Participation of representatives from the retail sector is encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 3 million and EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Given resource constrains, lengthening the lifetime of products can play a major role in moving towards a circular economy. However, products may be designed in a way that adversely affects their lifetime or prevents upgradability. Identification of the factors that cause such premature obsolescence is also important because making products more durable and easier to repair, upgrade or remanufacture can represent a key factor of competitiveness. A longer lifetime for products has the potential to generate new economic activities and offer societal and environmental benefits, while at the same time spurring on innovation in existing business models. An action under Horizon 2020 to prepare an independent testing programme addressing product durability is included in the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy[[]].

The project results are expected to contribute to:

  • development of products designed for durability, interoperability, repair and reuse;
  • development of markets based on durability;
  • reduced materials consumption and waste generation;
  • reduced information asymmetry between producers and consumers regarding product durability;
  • increased awareness and understanding of the types of design that may lead to premature obsolescence;
  • the implementation of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.