The right to repair is a global movement that advocates for consumers’ ability to repair their own devices and appliances without being restricted by manufacturers. It is a movement that could have profound implications for the tech industry, as it challenges the current business model of planned obsolescence and proprietary design.
The right to repair movement argues that manufacturers often make it difficult or expensive for users to access spare parts, tools, or information to repair their products, leading to more electronic waste and environmental impact. According to a report by the United Nations, around 50 million tonnes of electronic waste are generated every year globally, which is equivalent to throwing away 1,000 laptops every second . The right to repair movement claims that this waste could be reduced if users had more options and resources to fix their devices and appliances, rather than buying new ones.
The right to repair movement also suggests that repairing products could have economic and social benefits, as it could create more jobs and opportunities in the repair sector, which is often dominated by small businesses and entrepreneurs. According to a study by the US Public Interest Research Group, expanding the repair sector in the US could create 40,000 new jobs and save consumers $40 billion per year . The right to repair movement also asserts that repairing products could empower consumers to have more control and choice over their products, and foster a culture of innovation and learning.
However, the right to repair movement faces several challenges and oppositions from manufacturers and policymakers, who argue that it could compromise the quality, safety, security, and intellectual property rights of their products. They also claim that it could increase the costs and complexity of product design and development. For instance, Apple has stated that allowing unauthorized repairs could pose safety risks for its customers and damage its reputation . Similarly, John Deere has argued that allowing farmers to repair their own tractors could violate its software licenses and harm its business .
The right to repair movement has gained some traction in recent years, as new laws in the US and Europe are seeking to change the status quo by requiring manufacturers to provide more repair options and information. For example, in July 2023, the US Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to enforce the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits manufacturers from voiding warranties if consumers use third-party or self-repair services . In Europe, the EU has introduced new regulations that mandate manufacturers to make certain products more energy-efficient and easier to repair .
The right to repair movement is not only a consumer right, but also an environmental necessity. As one of its advocates, Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit, said: “The right to repair is about more than just fixing things. It’s about giving people the power to shape their own lives, rather than being dependent on corporations.” The right to repair movement could potentially revolutionize the tech industry by changing the way products are designed, used, and disposed of. It could also challenge the dominant paradigm of consumption and encourage a more sustainable and circular economy.
– How the right to repair might change technology, BBC Future, 29th October 2023
– The Debate on Right to Repair: A Primer, AAF, 22nd July 2023
– Research: The Unintended Consequences of Right-to-Repair Laws, HBR, 19th January 2023
– Right to Repair Legislation: Momentum and Challenges Ahead, Lexology, 21st April 2022