Watch | The Right to Repair movement

In July 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to prevent companies from restricting customers from repairing their own products - including laptops, smartphones, cars, washing machines, and heavy manufacturing equipment.

The European Commission had proposed ‘right to repair’ legislation in 2020 for electronic gadgets in a bid to curb e-waste as a part of the European Union’s circular economy action plan of carbon neutrality by 2050.

The move was made to restrict single-use products and counter the early obsolescence of products to enhance sustainability.

What is the ‘Right To Repair’ movement and why is it important?

Consumers often spend a huge amount of money on 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.

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 last year was fined $113 million for artificially slowing down all older models of the iPhone.

In 2017, Apple started offering battery discounts to affected users, which critics say could have been avoided if it permitted third-party battery replacements.

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.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 11:58:04 AM |

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