Fair Repair bills, legislation that champions a citizen’s right to repair their own gadgetry, have recently stalled in several states in the USA. This is not good news. Encouragingly, the fight against planned obsolescence continues through the noble work of the right to repair movement who believe that real, positive change in the electronics industry is only a matter of time – and application.
When you buy electronics, you take on responsibility for the item, assuming that the right to repair said item now lies with you. Right? Well no, not if we take the example of certain manufacturers; manufacturers who engage in repair prevention. Practically, this means that once your phone, laptop or similar is out of warranty and no longer functioning, you’re on your own. Not only will you no longer receive support from the manufacturer (unless, of course, you’d like to buy something new), it’s pretty likely that a local repair shop won’t have access to the right replacement parts to help you either. Thus the cycle continues: new product = awesome, old product = scrap. It’s planned obsolescence. What’s needed is a coalition of consumers and manufacturers to break the pattern. While we wait for the tech industry to cotton on to the needs of customers, and of the environment, let’s turn to those who are making a difference on the front line.
Who are the people involved in the right to repair movement – and what are they up to? Essentially, they are a collective of consumer champions and repair professionals, BuyMeOnce heroes all, that have come together to combat repair prevention and make our tech last longer. They’re going to do that by pushing through reform in the shape of fair repair bills in The United States. These bills are designed to support and empower both the repair industry and customers alike by making available essentials such as service information, updates and replacement parts needed to repair devices independently of manufacturers.
The Repair Association is at the heart of the movement. What started as a community of repair enthusiasts has become the go-to representative body for anyone involved in the repair of technology; this ranges from environmental organisations to independent workshops. Inspired by the principles and legislative success of the Automotive Right to Repair act passed in Massachusetts in 2012, The Repair Association took up the mantle adopting the principles and applying them to the world of technology. Now, there are bills circulating in 11 states in the USA. The message is out there, but taking on technology giants is by no means a short game. Their products are woven into our very existence.
The issue extends far beyond consumer and industry rights. With every shiny new tech release, a load of toxic E-waste is not far behind. The Global E-Waste Monitor (research from the UN published in 2014) projected that by 2018 the world will be producing around 50 million metric tonnes/tons of e-waste. This is an astonishing figure. As the system currently stands, only a minimal amount of that waste is recycled. If we continue to support only new technology, we will be continuously jamming a toxic combo of harmful metals and chemicals into landfill, damaging surrounding soil in the process.
The Repair Association asserts that we all have the right to repair documentation, reasonably priced repair parts and diagnostic information. If you agree, get involved and lend your voice to the cause and support repair legislation in your state here and keep pushing the right to repair on the state, national and international agenda.
The recent setback for legislation is a blow, but as membership to The Repair Association consistently grows their lobbying power can only increase. It’s a matter of time before citizens are demanding the right to repair, and we believe the movement can go from strength to strength.