Right to repair

Right to repair is a proposed legislation/movement that allows consumers the ability to modify and repair their own electronic devices.  

Planned obsolescence is the practice when goods are manufactured with a pre-determined expiry date aimed at forcing consumers into repeat purchases. The term was first termed in the 1950s by American industrial designer Brooks Stevens. This practice was introduced in the advent of mass-produced manufacturing at the start of the 20th century. But the practice was not as severe and prevalent as it is in recent years. One of the recent changes in the product design has been to make the goods very hard for end consumers to repair.

For instance smartphones, a couple of years back had a user-replaceable battery but with more features crammed into the chassis of a phone. Manufacturers have not only made it unnecessarily difficult to replace the battery but also to even open the panels of smartphones. With the recent MacBook Pro releases, Apple has soldered the SSD (Solid State Drive) on the motherboard. The reasoning for justifying the soldering by Apple is better reliability and the thinness of the laptops. But there is also another aspect. Apple’s business model is about selling laptops and not upgrading the systems. Upgrading an SSD can be a potential loss for them and to counter that Apple might have decided to make the laptop non-upgradable. The problem is that even SSDs are definitely much more reliable than mechanical hard disks but SSDs still fail and combining them with the motherboard means that if one of the two fails, the whole system fails. This also makes it much more difficult for end-user to repair their laptop. It also becomes a problem for the third-party repair business to access the repairing of these devices. This is just one of the instances of how access to repair is being restricted by the manufacturers but various companies are attempting to follow similar practices with varying degrees.          

With the introduction of newer and sophisticated technological components in electronic devices, it has become much more complicated to operate these modern devices. To reduce the access to repair these devices, manufacturers state that repairing the devices might violate their “Proprietary” rights. These repair limitations are a critical problem for not just the first owners but also for the second-hand/ used market. Due to proprietary information and diagnostics tools while evaluating a device. It has become difficult for third parties and end-user to even attempt the repair their own devices that they own. It took Apple the lawsuit to introduce the battery replacement program after the fiasco of the performance throttling issue on older iPhones. It clearly indicates that companies do not like it when consumers try to fix their products and companies deliberately try to reduce the user experience of older devices so that they can sell the newer models to maximize profits. With a monopoly on repair manufacturer’s intent is to lock down the user to the official service centers which can be significantly expensive than third-party service shops.

The right to repair movement intends to enact power into the consumer’s hands for the devices that they own. This means that consumers can open and modify everything they own. Also to root, unlock or jailbreak the software in their devices.