It happens to all of us at some point: that moment when you drop your smartphone and your stomach turns when you watch it fall to the ground. Then there’s the split-second moment of suspense when you take it, praying that it’s still in one piece. And if you see a crack, your next thought is usually, “How much is this going to cost me?” ”
While the government can’t help it if you’re a klutz, a new executive order from President Joe Biden could at least save you money when you are. The new order,, encourages the Federal Trade Commission to create new rules that prevent companies from preventing customers from repairing their products.
Biden’s decree comes after years of debate by advocates calling for the “right to repair,” a set of rules that in theory would force phone developers, car and washing machine makers, and even manufacturers ofand medical devices to publicly release the diagnostic tools and documentation they use to repair products when they break. This would allow ordinary people to repair the product themselves or go to a third-party repair shop, rather than relying on “official” authorized repair centers, which are almost always the more expensive option.
The right to redress movement has been around for some time, and it has already won victories in states like Massachusetts, where voters in 2020 approved a bill that would allow third parties access to all kinds of data on cars that manufacturers generally did not manufacture. Public.
The FTC has yet to announce formal rules, but Biden’s order clearly shows the movement is gaining momentum.
Below are some common questions about the concept of the right to repair, what it means to you, and what the government is doing to make the right to repair a reality.
What is the “right to repair?”
The Right to Repair is about giving users and third-party companies the tools, parts, and manuals necessary to repair a product they’ve purchased, such as a blender or a new laptop, on their own instead of relying on the manufacturer. of a product.
Another aspect of repair law that is currently under discussion is forcing technology companies to design and manufacture products that are easier to repair.
For example, Apple’s AirPod wireless earbuds are incredibly small, which is part of their appeal, but the iFixIt repair site says they’re almost. This is a problem considering that a few years after getting your AirPods, the batteries will likely start to run low. But instead of being able to take them apart and replace the batteries, you’ll probably feel pressured into buying another pair.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What does the right to repair mean to you as a consumer?
If the government, whether state or federal, passed right-to-repair legislation, it would potentially give you the ability to attempt the repair yourself without voiding the warranty.
Right now, if you have a cracked iPhone screen and you are trying to replace it yourself or work is being done by a local repair shop and that person and / or company is not a Apple Authorized Service Provider, or if the replacement screen is not an Apple Approved Part, your iPhone may no longer be covered by Apple’s warranty.
Right to repair laws would also likely encourage more competition for repair services, which could lower the prices of third-party repair shops on everything from your phone to medical devices to tractors.
What does the right to repair mean for the environment?
By allowing consumers to repair and extend the life of the products they own, this in turn will reduce the amount of waste and electronic waste that ends up in our landfills.
Are tech companies for or against the right to repair?
Attitudes are mixed. Last year Bloomberg published an article detailing the Right to Repair and efforts by companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft to prevent the Right to Repair Bills from passing law and becoming law.
The reasoning ? Intellectual property and security. If companies were forced to publish schematics, manuals and sell official parts to anyone, the companies say it would put their products at risk of being copied.
When it comes to safety, the companies say that an untrained person replacing a battery, for example, could pose a risk to their personal safety due to accidental damage, which in turn could cause the batteries to spontaneously combust. . .
At the same time, companies like Apple have slowly. Critics say Apple isn’t doing enough.
Who supports the right to repair?
As companies shy away from supporting this movement, a growing group of tech and social media influencers are starting to push for it.
Among them is Kyle Wiens, manager of the online manual and parts supply site iFixit. He has also visited legislatures across the country to encourage them to consider. He declined to share recent sales figures, but in 2016 he sold for $ 21 million worth of tool kits and parts to help people replace bad screens, cameras, buttons, and batteries in their devices. .
Another prominent figure in the community is Louis Rossman, a New York-based repair shop owner who uses YouTube to teach his more than 1.5 million subscribers how to fix computers. Over the years he has begun to advocate more for the right to repair, most recently through his advocacy organization, Fight to Repair and the Repair Preservation Group.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also spoke out in favor of the right of repair in a July Cameo video in Rossman.
“We wouldn’t have had Apple if I hadn’t grown up in a very open technological world,” Wozniak said in his video. “It’s time to start doing the right things… it’s time to recognize the right to make more complete repairs. “
How does the government get involved in the right to redress?
Since 2014, a total of 32 states have considered or are in the process of adopting right to repair legislation, according to the Repair Association.
In 2021 alone, 27 states are currently considering right to repair legislation, according to U.S. public interest research groups. The Repair Association and US PIRG organizations work with lawmakers to develop and pass right to repair legislation.
The New York State Senate passed a Right to Repair bill in June, but it still needs to be passed by the Assembly before it can be enacted.
At the federal level, Biden just signed the Executive Order which, among other things, asked the FTC to consider issuing “rules against anti-competitive restrictions on the use of independent repair shops or DIY repairs of your own.” apparatus and equipment ”with regard to“ Telephone (s. ”
The ordinance also calls on the FTC to consider similar repair rules for farmers, making it easier to repair expensive equipment, such as tractors.
What are other countries doing about the right to repair?
As of July 1, some appliance manufacturers in the UK are required to make spare parts available to owners of their products.
The new law is not broad enough to include all electronic devices, such as smartphones or computers. Instead, it’s limited to devices.
Home appliance manufacturers have two years to make parts available, and those parts must remain available for several years after the company ceases to manufacture a particular product. But the law does not include all the components of a product. Instead, the bill is limited to “safe” repairs that can be done at home. The BBC has reported, for example, that repairs to heating elements or an engine will have to be carried out by a “professional repairman”.
What is the next step for the right to repair?
Right now, we’re waiting to see what the FTC decides to do after Biden’s executive order. The order only encouraged the FTC to issue rules, instead of forcing it.
In addition to monitoring the FTC, we will continue to monitor proposed right to redress legislation by working at various stages of the state-level process across the country.