Right to repair: Consumers push back for independent repair

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Right to repair: Consumers push back for independent repair

Right to repair: Consumers push back for independent repair

Subheading text
The Right to Repair movement wants absolute consumer control on how they want their products fixed.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • November 19, 2021

    The Right to Repair movement is slowly taking off, as consumer groups rally against large manufacturers controlling the repair industry.

    Right to repair context

    A regular source of headache for consumers is going to a repair shop only to be informed that fixing their gadget is so expensive and complicated they might as well buy a new one. Aside from parts being costly and nearly impossible to source, information on how to fix the devices are often closely guarded by original manufacturers.

    Fortunately, the Right to Repair movement is slowly gaining ground in its efforts to give consumers more control over their purchased goods and reduce the costs of repairing products overall. For example, Right to Repair lobbyists have pushed back against large firms not sharing repair and diagnostics data, and making it difficult for small independent shops to fix certain products. Furthermore, proponents of the movement claim that being able to fix your own purchase is a human right. As one repair shop owner asked, “If you can't fix it, do you really own it?" 

    Disruptive impact

    In July 2021, US President Joe Biden released an executive order urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce regulations that encourage the right to repair. The FTC announced that it would crackdown on "unlawful" restrictions to consumers being able to repair their own devices. However, large tech and automobile firms claim that releasing sensitive repair information about their products would increase cyber attack risks and violate their intellectual property rights. For medical device providers, such disclosures (they argue) may result in patient data being stolen for ransomware.

    Still, the support for the Right to Repair movement grows, as most US states have submitted pro-right to repair bills in 2021. In New York, the Fair Repair Act was passed in the state's senate. The Act’s final fate will be determined in January 2022 when the assembly reconvenes.

    Wider implications of Right to Repair

    Example applications for this Right to Repair trend may include:

    • More independent repair shops being able to perform more comprehensive diagnostics and quality product repairs, as well as reducing business costs so that more technicians can open independent repair shops.
    • Enabling consumer advocacy groups to more effectively research repair information to check whether large firms are intentionally creating product models with short lifespans.
    • More regulation supporting self-repair or do-it-yourself repair being passed, with similar legislation being adopted by nations worldwide.
    • Encouraging more companies to increasingly standardize their product designs and manufacturing processes to sell goods that last longer and are easier to repair.

    Questions to comment on

    • How might the Right to Repair movement impact how products are manufactured in the future?
    • How else might the Right to Repair movement affect firms, such as Apple or John Deere?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: