All you need to know about the ‘Right to repair’ movement

We Indians are quite good at fixing things. Be it a broken vase or a plastic toy, we manage to find a way to make things usable. But, how about a broken smartphone or any defunct E-gadget for that matter? We may not be educated enough to repair it on our own but can we even get it repaired from a local repair shop? Not really. Thanks to the latest technological advancements, we can’t. So, what happens? 

We visit the manufacturer and are charged a hefty amount for the repair or worse, we are told that the gadget is not repairable. In such circumstances, we are just left with the option of buying a new phone. Now, the most important question. Are these gadgets actually irreparable or is it a ploy by these smartphone manufacturing companies? This is what we are going to touch upon in our topic –right to repair. So, stay with us and read the complete article. It will give you a complete insight. 

‘Tech Giants’ saga unfolded Right to repair

Now, let’s discuss planned obsolescence. A phenomenon where tech companies deliberately slow down older models and hinder the repairing process. This is a smart tactic to drive up sales. 

A premium mobile phone brand has a proprietary five-point screw in its’ phones and these screws cannot be opened by anyone but their authorised service centres. We hope that this rings the bell. In fact, the brand has been deliberately slowing down all older models and was fined $113 million for the same.

It’s not just about one brand but there are a lot of other brands following similar practices. At a famous fast-food chain In America, the ice cream machine is frequently out of service/broken. Why? The manufacturers of these machines are alleged to deliberately build in flaws when their technicians are sent to fix the machines. 

Today, anything that has a chip in it is quite impossible to repair without a manufacturer’s interference. Limited availability of spare parts, non-repairable batteries, slowing down OS and digital locks are some of the tricks used by these smartphone brands to discourage repairs.

All this leads us to buy a new gadget and this is what they want. Isn’t it exploitation of the customers? 

Source: CTV Comedy Channel, The Hindu

What is the “Right to repair” movement?

All the above-mentioned issues are not only exploiting fellow customers but also harming our mother Earth. Hence, activists and organizations around the world have been advocating for the rights of consumers through the “right to repair movement”.

This movement demands that the manufacturers provide easy repair access to the consumers by making authentic spare parts and tools easily available and by giving the repair power to the third-party shops. The movement is also aimed at the protection of the environment and to support businesses providing repair services. 

Smartphone production is not an easy task. It puts additional pressure on the environment and also consumes huge quantities of natural resources. So, if we can save the environment by introducing this law, then why not! This act would also boost third-party repair shops or portals benefiting the local economy.

Source: Financial Express, Indian Express

How are companies reacting to this?

The movement has faced great resistance from various tech companies. This was expected as these companies would have to give up on their revenue generation to a great extent. Another argument from their end is that opening up their intellectual property to a third party could threaten their data and cybersecurity. Big companies have refused to share instruction manuals and diagnostic software with third parties. Well, they may be right to an extent because these gadgets are complex products and any random repairer cannot work on them but there needs to be some limit on these restrictions.

The ultimate decision should lie in the hands of the consumer. One may approach whosoever (third party repair shop/ manufacturer) one wants to. As Repair.org has rightly noted – “Centuries of law tell us that buying something transfers control of that item from seller to buyer. When contacts fail to cede full control to the buyer – the legal rights of owners are damaged”.

Source: Financial Express, Indian Express, The Hindu

Where does this movement stand as of 2021?

Today, the state of Massachusetts has passed the right to repair law and more than 32 U.S. states have proposed legislation to the right-to-repair act. Even the U.K has introduced the Right to repair law into its governance. This compels tech companies to allow consumers to fix their e-devices either themselves or via the assistance of the technician of their choice. Ultimately, the decision has to lie with the customer.

Source: Financial Express

Conclusion

The overall objective of this movement is to reduce E-waste that is being produced at an alarming rate and to give more power to the customers who own these devices. Even the Indian government should think about this and come up with a similar law as soon as possible. With an alarming rate of pollution, it’s a step in the right direction. 

This particular movement would ensure that the devices that we buy are easily repairable and we are not forced to discard our old gadgets. With all good reasons, our government should also look into this and see what best can be done to protect the rights of the Indian citizens and to help the environment.

Hope the above gives you a clear perspective on what this movement is all about? Should you have anything to add, do let us know in the comment section below.