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The Right To Repair Act: Our Take

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

If you follow us on social media, are on our email list, or are a customer, you know our motto is “repair, don’t replace”. Over the years, manufacturers in every industry (not just electronics) have made it harder for consumers to easily repair their devices and other items.

This doesn’t only apply to the average consumer, but also to independent repair shops like The Lab. Unfortunately most of us have a shared experience of spending hundreds (sometimes more) of dollars on a laptop or tablet, only to have the battery completely give out within 2 years.

You’re faced with the choice of trying to replace the battery, something that the average person doesn’t have the tools or knowledge to do or spending money on a completely new device. 

Your laptop likely just needs a new battery, but you’re stuck spending much more on a completely new device while your old laptop heads to the landfill.

The idea behind the Right To Repair Act takes steps to address this frustration we all face.

What Is Right To Repair?

The concept is simple on its surface: if you own something, you should be able to either repair it yourself or take it to a repair technician you choose. The item’s original manufacturer should get no say in who repairs your device once you’ve purchased it.

This idea is more readily accepted when it comes to items like older appliances for your home or even vehicles.

However, with technological advancements rapidly becoming integrated into our daily lives, items and devices have become more complex and difficult to repair.

Legally, you have the right to repair your devices, electronics, and more. However, it isn’t always that easy. It has become commonplace for manufacturers to deny access to necessary replacement parts and instructions.

How Will Right To Repair Fix This Problem?

The objectives of the Right To Repair Act are:

  1. Include repair in the design of devices. Electronics and other devices need to be designed in a way that makes it actually possible to repair them.
  2. Provide repair information. Everyone should be able to access manuals, software updates, and schematics needed to repair the items they purchase.
  3. Make appropriate tools and replacement parts available. Diagnostic tools and replacement parts like batteries need to be available to third parties.

At the core of this act is the concept that we need to stop creating electronics and items that can’t be repaired. This doesn’t just affect the electronic industry, it extends to farm equipment, vehicles, medical equipment, and more.

Consumers are getting tired of having devices they can’t fix themselves or take to their local repair shop. For example, Nintendo was recently sued over “Joy-Con drift”. 

The company required Nintendo Switch owners to send their controllers directly to Nintendo to fix, discouraging third-party repairs.

Products are regularly designed in ways that make them difficult to repair. This is evident in a variety of ways:

  • It’s impossible to open without destroying it
  • Manufacturer refuses to give third party options for replacement parts and repairs
  • Consumers are unable to install custom software

Not all manufacturers have sinister motives behind the creation of their products. Discouraging repairs can be as simple as using proprietary software or even something as small as a screw. 

No matter the intent behind it, manufacturers need to change the way they design their products.

Benefits Of Right To Repair

Other than the obvious benefits of making devices and other items easier (and often cheaper) to repair, Right To Repair can help reduce electronic waste.

We shouldn’t be recycling usable technology, we should be reusing it. That’s far better for the environment.

Nathan Proctor, Senior Right To Repair Campaign Director (interview with Wirecutter)

While some companies have been making small strides toward allowing their customers the right to repair their devices, there is a lot more work to be done.

For example, after years of being told they needed to change, Apple finally allowed third-party repair shops to access iPhone repair parts and tools in 2019.

However, the company continues to make computers and devices that aren’t easy to upgrade or repairable after purchase.

Legislation like the Right To Repair Act would make sure that companies like Apple would have to make those repair tools, parts, and instructions available to repair shops and consumers alike.

Apple isn’t alone in these practices, Samsung, Microsoft, and more are all guilty of creating devices that resist repairs.

There are already laws in place to protect consumers in other industries, so expanding that coverage isn’t too radical of an idea. 

For example, the “Eyeglass Rule” upheld by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), states: 

The Eyeglass Rule requires that optometrists and ophthalmologists provide patients a copy of their prescription after the completion of an eye examination without extra cost. In addition, the Rule prohibits optometrists and ophthalmologists from conditioning the availability of an examination on a requirement that patients agree to purchase any ophthalmic goods.

Need Help With A Repair?

What it comes down to is that we believe that everyone should be able to access what they need to fix their purchases. 

Whether that is the average consumer who can complete a simple repair themselves or a professional repair technician working at The Lab, everyone needs that access.

Wear and tear on your devices is normal, but throwing electronic devices in a landfill when a simple repair could have saved them shouldn’t be. 

Have a phone, tablet, computer, or another device that needs a repair? Come see us at The Lab and let us get your device back in your hands fast. Remember, repair, don’t replace!

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