Is a product really yours if you’re not free to fix it when it breaks or to ask someone else to fix it for you?
It sounds like a ridiculous question until you realize that, until recently, many of the electronic products in our lives had terms and conditions of sale that prevented you from doing just that.
And that’s where the right to repair movement comes in.
What Is The Right To Repair?
We’re big fans of repairing things to extend their lifespan – you can check out our previous articles on repairing shoes and reconditioning batteries to see how this approach is good for the planet and for you.
But until July of this year, many electronic products and automobiles had specific conditions of sale that prevented consumers from repairing their own devices or choosing a supplier to do so.
Instead, they were required to use a specific repair company specified by the manufacturer and if they couldn’t do a repair – the item was then considered useless and to be disposed of.
The right to repair movement, which is a global movement, considers this “planned obsolescence” an affront to ethical sales and a disaster for the planet.
The Repair Association
The American branch of this movement, which is known as The Repair Association, was formed in 2013 and has been working at state level to combat this practice.
They’ve had several wins too and their status has been growing as more and more figures from various industries have lent their voices and support to ensure that Americans had the right to repair.
But the biggest win of them all came in July of 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), finally gave its unanimous vote to the Right to Repair across all forms of automotive and electronic devices nationwide.
This came off the back of an instruction from President Biden to the FTC to enable better competition in the consumer marketplace and to enshrine the right to repair.
It’s good news for companies like iFixit which have been publishing manuals and retailing kits for repairing devices and have had to regularly endure being taken to court trying to block the sale of these materials by device manufacturers.
The Pandemic Drove Change
It’s not just consumers that will benefit, one of the driving forces for this change in legal approach was that during the pandemic – medical equipment which broke down could not be easily serviced due to artificial barriers to servicing created by manufacturers.
Does It Really Matter?
However, while the change in the legal position is to be welcomed, there’s a long road to go before we see a real right to repair in America.
That’s because consumers will need education on this right and many manufacturers are going to need to be taken to court to be forced to end their anti-competitive and anti-environmental repair policies, particularly those limiting the sale of specialist tools for repairs.
Final Thoughts On The Right To Repair Movement
It’s about time that the legal position on the right to repair changed and it’s good news that it has but we’re aware that there’s a lot of work to be done before the change is embedded in our society at large.
For the sake of our children’s future, this needs to be a priority, we cannot continue to throw things away rather than repair them if we want the planet to survive.
Nicholas Barang has lived in Asia for nearly 15 years. He makes his living as a writer, marketer, and blogger. His passions include photography, reading and Heavy Metal. He’s the co-founder of Nomad Talk.