One of the lesser-known debates of our time is the right to repair, the movement that supports consumers being able to repair their own devices, such as an electronic, car, or appliance. The rationale is that if you buy an item, you can do whatever you want with it; if that means taking your product to a private business or performing the repairs/maintenance yourself, you have the right.
Why is this right challenged? Manufacturers seek to end our right to repair because they want to keep the consumer’s business during both the selling and repair processes. For example, car manufacturers maximize profits when they sell someone a car, who then returns to the dealership for servicing and repairs. The dealership would profit off of the original car plus every additional expense.
It should be noted that, legally, Americans can fix the items they buy, there’s nothing holding them back from opening the hood of their new car or unscrewing their laptop to replace a component. However, businesses try to deter customers from fixing their own products by withholding information, parts, or tools.
The Repair Association is a group formed for the purpose of fighting for our right to repair. This organization advocates for third-party businesses to repair products, provide information, schematics, components, and the tools necessary to complete a repair, end the practice of locking aspects of the product out from the consumer, and rework the design of products to allow for repairs. The Repair Association’s main belief is that the knowledge and tools to complete repairs should be as accessible as the products themselves.
In addition, these policy decisions would create new jobs and help the economy. An entire market would be designed around small businesses maintaining and repairing people’s things, and third-party companies producing the parts and tools. While working through third-party businesses would pull profits away from the original manufacturers, these manufacturers could still make a profit through selling their proprietary tools, schematics, and repair manuals to average people.
The environmental effects of this policy would also be great; preserving the right and ability to repair would reduce waste, easing the strain on landfills. For example, without the right to repair, if your phone stops working, you would have to go to the manufacturer for a repair. However, the pricing for screen repairs are structured to encourage the purchase of a new phone. At Apple, my iPhone 11 costs $200 for Apple to replace the screen. This is almost as expensive as a new iPhone 11, which is $500. At that point, I (along with many others) would consider just buying a new phone, fearing what other problems the phone could have from this damage. Another example is that Tesla tried to charge a Model S owner $22,500 to replace the battery pack in their car. Would most Model S owners want to pay nearly a quarter of the MSRP to get a replacement battery pack, while still having an aging drivetrain and chassis? I wouldn’t think so, especially considering an independent shop completed the repair for $5,000. In both of these examples, without the right to repair, many consumers would be tempted to buy a new product, leaving their old one in the landfill. This would have serious environmental consequences, especially with electronics’ batteries decomposing.
Even if you don’t want to get your hands dirty working on your car or fixing your shattered phone screen, I think most people can agree that consumers have the right to do what they want with their possessions.
Thanks for reading,