Over the last two decades or so, a paradox has been growing wherein consumers are no longer the real owner of their property. In many cases like with cell phones, despite paying for and owning the product, the buyer doesn’t have the right to do open up and fix the device in their hand. The Right to Repair coalition is fighting to change this.
As detailed by iFixit in a blog post, a growing number of states and the federal government have been enacting laws that restore an owner’s rights to do whatever they like with their electronics and other goods. Several of the organization’s listed “wins” from the last couple of years include Congress legalizing smartphone unlocking and the FTC banning “warranty void if removed” stickers.
While this might seem like a problem that everyone would be on board with, a lot of companies that manufacture products are not. Two of the major players fighting Right to Repair are Apple and John Deere. Both companies have come out stating that publishing repair guides would threaten its intellectual property and it would be hazardous to allow consumers to work on their products as they could break them.
This seems like a weak argument, as people have been fixing their products for years, in many cases breaking their warranty in the process. With Right to Repair legislation, both owners and repair shops would have the information they need to properly fix their products instead of relying on someone on the internet to figure it out first.
The U.S. isn’t the only country currently dealing with Right to Repair legislation. Overseas, the European Commission is currently working on proposals that would require large appliance manufacturers to design products from TVs to refrigerators so that they could be disassembled and repaired without proprietary tools or equipment.
In 2018, 18 states had introduced Right to Repair legislation with another 15 considering it in 2019. With this much forward momentum, we could easily see the process of replacing your smartphone display or fixing your air conditioner much easier and cheaper over the next couple of years.
You can visit repair.org if you would like to learn more about the Right to Repair initiative as well as information for contacting your local legislators.