The right to repair gains ground

A new French law could be the tipping point the right to repair movement needed to grab the attention of consumers and lawmakers.


You bought a new electronic gadget, used it for a while, then it broke. Now what? Too often we have two choices: pay through the nose to have the manufacturer fix it or, more likely, throw it away and buy a new one. For many manufacturers, these are both excellent options, as high-priced repairs and new sales maximize profits. However, the world is changing. Africa, the destination of much of the world’s e-waste, is drowning in old phones, computers and televisions, since the electronics industry generates more waste than even the plastic or textile sectors, according to the UN. Meanwhile, with rising inflation and the convergence of global economic crises, there are more incentives than ever to reduce waste and reuse what we have. With new legislation and consumer demand, the old fight for the right to repair our own affairs is gaining momentum.

Right to repair bills move slowly through state legislatures these last years. Last summer, President Biden issued an executive order directing the FTC to take a wide range of actions, including limiting technology makers’ restrictions on an equipment owner’s ability to repair their own property. In October, the US Copyright Office created an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which allows device owners to open products for repair.

However, a French law of 2021 may have been the tipping point that defenders of the right to reparation have been waiting for. The law requires phone makers to rate the repairability of their products, on a scale of 0 to 10. The score is displayed alongside the price, so consumers have an idea of ​​what they’re getting into. Samsung commissioned a study to find out how the new Notes fared and found that 80% of buyers were willing to give up their favorite brands for one that was easier to fix. Extremely popular dashboards bring about big changes and affect the market widely. As Nathan Proctor, who leads the Right to Repair campaign for the US Public Interest Research Group Told The edgeno matter how long the industry has known about customer frustration, changes like this don’t happen “unless there’s a threat of legislation”.

Apple may have bowed to consumer pressure when they introduced their new self-service repair program last week, but they’re not as open as right-to-repair advocates had hoped. Customers can now order repair kits to fix various components of their new iPhones, but the process isn’t self-contained or seamless. Requirements include providing the serial number (or IMEI), renting an official Apple toolkit for $49 per week (he weighs 79 pounds!), separately purchasing numbered and officially stamped Apple repair parts, and, when many repairs are complete, devices will require system reconfiguration directly through Apple. It’s not clear that it’s cheaper than just paying Apple to repair the device itself or buy a new phone, but it’s a very small step in the right direction.

Imagine being unable to go there. Photo by Leandra Rieger on Unsplash.

Another victory for reparations advocates came out of Colorado last week at the state general meeting passed a bill which will require manufacturers of motorized wheelchairs to make tools, spare parts and manuals available to owners and independent repairers at reasonable prices. The bill, HB22-1031, awaits the governor’s signature. It’s bad enough to need a wheelchair, but being unable to fix a broken wheelchair, or enduring long delays and costly repairs adds insult to injury.

AdvaMed, association representing the medical technology industry, took the floor last week against right to repair legislation affecting medical devices, arguing that unregulated repairs by untrained and unauthorized (read: probably cheaper) repair personnel put patient safety at risk. Maybe so, in which case there is a compelling counter-argument to be made to compel these companies to make training, parts and manuals easier and cheaper to obtain, not hide them behind a paywall. actually inscrutable or inconvenient. Relying on companies that hold medical devices hostage to ensure maximum profit is therefore a danger to patient safety, and one wonders why we would allow this, except that our legislative bodies are far more beholden to industry. than they are in the best interests of constituents.

Finally, farmers could find another exit of the irreparable repair trap. Before tractors needed proprietary parts and licensed software, thrifty farmers used to play with their machines themselves. Unfortunately, times have changed and John Deere can tinker with a farmer’s tractor and make it a crime to fix it himself. Bernie Sanders even got the right to repair farm equipment a board in its campaign platform. However, some farmers have gone beyond the repair issue and are designing a production model that would rely on readily available parts and open source code to run their machines. Open source tractors are even customizable to the particular crops a farmer sees fit to grow, saving money instead of requiring expensive new hardware. When we free farmers to tinker, we all win.

In a world where the most durable and environmentally sound assets are those we already own, having the right to repair them ourselves is a critical step towards even marginal sustainability. Dumping E-waste that’s broken, obsolete, or intentionally obsolete because it’s more lucrative for companies to sell us brand new products isn’t just morally inexcusable these days, it’s a clear sign that we’re all grown for profit.

Related: Are Repair Cafés bad for the economy?

Sources:

Kenya’s e-waste recyclers fight to contain growing scourge

Why you should care about your right to repair gadgets

The US Copyright Office has just struck a blow in favor of the right to repair

The age of fixing your own phone is almost here

Defender of the right to repair on the Apple program: “Still too many obstacles to overcome” to repair iPhones

Apple’s self-repair program gets off to a rocky start

Colorado Passes Right to Repair Law for Wheelchairs

The Fallacy of the Right to Repair of Medical Devices

In the battle for the right to repair, open-source tractors offer an alternative

Bernie Sanders Calls for National Right to Repair Law for Farmers

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