Explained | Right To Repair movement and how Big Tech is reacting to it


With products becoming difficult to repair, activists and consumer organisations are advocating the ‘Right to Repair’ movement, which aims to enable consumers to repair their electronics products by themselves or third-party technicians.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prevent companies from restricting customers from repairing their own products — including laptops, smartphones, cars, washing machines, and heavy manufacturing equipment.

(Subscribe to our Today’s Cache newsletter for a quick snapshot of top 5 tech stories. Click here to subscribe for free.)

Why is the ‘Right To Repair’ movement important?

Consumers often spend huge amount of money on these appliances and gadgets, and sometimes find them to become obsolete within a few years after purchase. For example, a smartphone’s battery is likely to degrade over time and slow down the device’s performance. And, if the battery is not replaceable, the consumer is forced to dump the device and spend thousands of rupees on a new phone.

Fragile and irreparable components also reduce the life of a product. Manufacturers, too, drop support for functional devices, and non-standard parts. Most modern technology consists of irreparable and irreplaceable components, especially if it is powered by sophisticated computer chips.

With products becoming difficult to repair, activists and consumer organisations are advocating the ‘Right to Repair’ movement, which aims to enable consumers to repair their electronics products by themselves or third-party technicians.

Planned obsolescence

In the 1950s, Brook Stevens, an American industrial designer, pointed out the term ‘planned obsolescence’, a marketing practice in which manufacturers artificially shorten product lifecycles and encourage consumers to buy new products every few years. This practice favoured sellers and made them influence buying decisions to improve sales and increase profit.

Critiques of the planned obsolescence method say that a component repair industry could boost local businesses and create jobs. Some even note that the possibility of repairing products could cut electronic waste.

“Repair is also a critical function for all forms of re-use and even extended useful life. Products that cannot be repaired become instant electronic-waste,” not-for-profit organisation Repair.org has said on its website. Moreover, some experts believe the law could force electronics manufacturers to make better quality products, but at higher costs to consumers.

Another objective of the movement includes retention of value of the product which is lost if it is irreparable. Ultimately, it aims at retention of power in the hands of the consumer. “Centuries of law tell us that buying something transfers control of that item from seller to buyer. When contracts fail to cede full control to the buyer — the legal rights of owners are damaged,” Repair.org noted.

Where does the movement stand today?

As of 2021, more than 32 U.S. states have proposed legislations to the right-to-repair act, while only the state of Massachusetts has passed a law. The Motor Vehicles Owners’ Right to Repair Act passed in 2012 required automobile manufacturers to provide necessary documents to allow third-party technicians to repair their vehicles.

U.K.’s Right To Repair law took effect from July 1, and it requires appliance manufactures to provide consumers access to spare parts and make complicated parts available in professional repair shops.

How are tech companies reacting?

Tech giants including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla disfavour the movement stating it threatens the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets.

Apple Inc last year was fined $113 million for artificially slowing down all older models of the iPhone. Previously in 2017, the California-based company started offering battery discounts to affected users, which could have been avoided if Apple permitted third-party battery replacements, Repair.org had told Vice.

Microsoft and Google have also opposed the legislation, stating it allows unvetted access to sensitive diagnostic information and software.

Tech mogul Elon Musk’s Tesla has said such an act would weaken the system’s cybersecurity and make it prone to attacks.

.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.