How Spain’s Mandatory Three-Year Warranty Could Change Everything

Right to repair, and return

Key Takeaways

  • Spain’s new law mandates a three-year warranty on all goods sold.
  • Spare’s must be made available for a minimum of 10 years.
  • The customer will be able to choose repair or replacement.
A blue Samsung Android phone laying on concrete with a shattered screen.

Ashkan Forouzani / Unsplash

Spain’s new three-year warranty could change everything about buying gadgets.

Spain just passed a law that mandates a three-year warranty for all products and requires manufacturers to keep spare parts on hand for a decade. Germany already decrees a two-year warranty on all goods. This is obviously good news for consumers, but how might it change the way manufacturers design their gadgets? Or how retailers sell them?

"The obvious impact of longer warranties is that consumers will need to buy products less often," Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review, told Lifewire via email. "This could potentially mean a lower monetary value for each customer, though savvy business owners will up their prices to compensate for this."

Peace of Mind

A three-year warranty seems almost impossible to people used to disposable gadgets and a paltry one-year repair period. In fact, the majority of people I reached out to about this subject assumed we were talking about extended warranties, like Apple Care.

"A warranty is just a form of insurance. Generally, buying insurance for something that you can afford to lose is a mathematically bad choice," investment blogger Daniel Penzing told Lifewire via email.

Someone repairing a cellphone.

krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images

"So this locks customers into entering an insurance policy that many might not have wanted. It turns the system from opt-in to a 'you can't opt out.' This might fly in Europe, but Americans wouldn't like the loss of freedom of choice here."

The new Spanish law simply extends the statutory warranty period, in this case, from two years to three. You know how when you take your iPhone to an Apple Store after six months because the camera stopped working, and they just swap it for a new iPhone? It’s like that; only they can do it for up to three years, not just one. 

This kind of consumer protection gives buyers tremendous peace of mind, but it may shake up the retail world, especially if this trend expands globally. 

Long-Lasting

We’re used to buying products with a short lifespan. Even when our gadgets last a long time, like iPhones, we often replace them every two years anyway, in part because repairs are difficult and expensive. The European Union has addressed this by supporting the right to repair, which forces manufacturers to provide resources and spare parts for their products.

Now, those products have to last longer, to begin with. If you buy a camera, and it dies after two-and-a-half years of regular use, then you will be able to get it repaired or replaced under warranty. 

"This could potentially mean a lower monetary value for each customer, though savvy business owners will up their prices to compensate for this."

"At the beginning, I was absolutely sure this law would have a negative impact on the Spanish tech culture and economy, but now I am certain that three-year warranties will actually be a boost for our economy," gadget reviewer Jason Loomis told Lifewire via email.

"Since the law has been passed, we've seen way more innovation and knowledge sharing about maintaining our tech gadgets, because now we have to."

"Extended warranties help create trust between retailer and consumer," says Freiberg. In Germany, online music equipment retailer Thomann already offers a three-year warranty on all goods sold, one year longer than required by German law. Thomann even honors this extension outside Germany, which is a boon to buyers in countries with shorter warranties. 

Repairability

If fairer warranty periods remain specific to individual countries, then perhaps giants like Apple will just swallow the expense of extra returns. But if they grow throughout Europe or worldwide, manufacturers may instead design products that last longer or are easier to repair.

If Apple has to replace iPhone parts on older phones, it might bring its design expertise to the repair process and make things like screen replacements way easier.

Broken vintage television sets on a shelf in an abandoned building.

Michal Lis / Unsplash

Coffee grinder maker Baratza already does this. Not only does it make repairable (and excellent) grinders, but it also sells spare parts and posts how-to repair guides. What better way to reassure consumers that they are buying a good product than to back it up like this?

Manufacturers and sellers will both have to change to accommodate these laws. We already mentioned the design and repairability, but retailers also will have to cope with the logistics of returns and repairs. Thomann has a specialist repair department that assesses broken gear and either fixes or returns it to the manufacturer (I have used this service myself). Other retailers will surely have to follow, however reluctantly. 

"It used to be that dying phones were simply being thrown away, and companies didn't need to invest in their longevity. Now, if a company wants to survive, they will have to produce products that are built to last for three years," says Loomis.

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