What is Right to Repair?

Repair technician

The pace at which technology changes is so fast. The electronic items industry and companies providing data center services are the larger producers of e-waste. The global market for e-waste management was capped at around $48,000 million for 2020 which will continue to grow with a CAGR of 14.3%. the market will cross the 143,870 million by 2028.

Home appliances like ACs, TVs, food processors, and refrigerators along with mobile phones, laptops, hard disks, and keyboards are added to the mountainous pile of waste every year. However, a study on the global e-waste management market conducted by Allied Market Research found that 250 kg of silver, 24 kg of gold, and 9 tons of copper can be retrieved from 1 million mobile phones dumped every year.

The Curious Case of Battery Button

Now and then Apple Inc. is accused of making its older iPhone models slow. A report by BBC News revealed that the tech giant has been fined 25 million euros by the French consumer protection forum, DGCCRF.

However, Apple has not denied making devices slower to protect the device’s performance due to old lithium-ion batteries. The forum said in its mandate that Apple should have displayed the information in French on its website for a month at least before releasing the update.

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A leap in technological advancement forces us to change our devices for new ones. With more and more products becoming outdated because of an upgrade or their parts are no longer available in the market, consumers are becoming dissatisfied. The consequence is ‘The Right to Repair’ movement.

What is Right to Repair?

It empowers consumers to get their electronic items to get repaired by third-party technicians or themselves. The movement has been discouraged vehemently by companies such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla as they find it encroaching upon their trade secrets and their right to intellectual property such as patents and copyright.

Newly elected POTUS, Joe Biden has shown a green flag to an executive order on the Federal Trade Commission to limit the restrictions imposed by companies on customers regarding repairing the products such as laptops, smartphones, cars, washing machines, and other manufacturing equipment.

The Significance of Right to Repair

Consumers pay a small fortune to get their hands on the latest appliances and cool gadgets. They find them hard to use after a few years. For instance, all electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops slow down after a while because of their battery or any other spare part.

If that battery or part is irreplaceable, people are forced to dump the article for a newer version. Manufacturers give support to repair non-standardized parts of the product and refuse to do so after the warranty ends. Software upgrades make devices go slow after some time because consumers cannot replace some parts adding to the piles of waste.

Is All of It Planned?

Brook Stevens was an American industrial designer who identified the pattern in 1950 and christened it as ‘planned obsolescence. It is a widely used marketing practice in which manufacturers cut short the life of a product artificially making it irrelevant after some time. Consequently, consumers are forced to buy a new one. Thus, manufacturers can manipulate and increase sales by influencing people to buy new products.

The practice is condemned by consumers and environmentalists as repairing a product may create a new business opportunity and create more jobs. It will also cut short the waste produced every year.

E-waste

As per Repair.org, repairing is critical for recycling and re-use and extends a products’ lifecycle. The non-profit organization says that products dumped in want of repair add to the pile of e-waste generated every year making it hazardous for the environment.

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The movement identifies that all the rights are not transferred by the manufacturer to the consumer when any product is sold. This arrangement affects the legal rights of ownership of the consumer which shall be absolute against the manufacturer in some respect.

The Future of Right to Repair Movement

The year 2021 was pretty full of action for the movement as more than 32 states in the USA have proposed legislation supporting the right to repair and the state of Massachusetts has become the first state to pass The Motor Vehicles Owners’ Right to Repair Act in 2012. It puts an obligation on automobile manufacturers to provide requisite information allowing third parties to repair the vehicle.

The right to repair law in the United Kingdom was enforced on 1 July. It puts an obligation on appliance manufacturers to provide spare parts and complicated parts available to the consumer for repairing the device.

Microsoft and Google have expressed anguish and disappointment over the passing of the laws saying that it will make the IT industry vulnerable to data leaks and other problems.

Tesla’s CEO sees the legislation as an attack on the cybersecurity and integrity of the manufacturers.

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