The consumer tech space is bustling with upgraded versions of smartphones, laptops, and wearable devices coming out every few years. But what if something is wrong with your most expensive gadget. You take it to a company-authorized service center, only to find that the price of the repair is out of your budget. You prefer to spend a little more and buy another product itself.
Apple regularly puts certain older versions of its products on the “obsolete” list. This means that Apple is no longer offering hardware support for these products at its service centers. Most electronics manufacturers also dictate who can repair their products, authorizing only a few select “service centers” and making it a very costly affair for the average consumer.
Consumers are now questioning all of this as part of the “right to repair” movement.
The United States has passed a law to this effect. In July 2021, US President Joe Biden called on the Federal Trade Commission to limit manufacturer-imposed restrictions that limit consumers’ ability to repair their gadgets on their own terms.
And Britain’s Right To Repair Act came into force on July 1.
It requires appliance manufacturers to provide consumers with access to spare parts and to make complicated parts available at professional repair shops.
Proponents of the right to repair movement argue that such laws would boost local repair shops and small businesses. They point out that the purchase of any electronic device signifies a transfer of power and ownership from the manufacturer to the consumer.
As such, the consumer should be able to repair their own product as they see fit, instead of relying on the manufacturer.
They also argue that electronics manufacturers are working around a concept of “planned obsolescence”. This means that electronic devices are designed to last only for a specific period of time, after which they are meant to be replaced.
You may be using an older version of the Apple Macbook, which will be moved to the “obsolete” list in a few years. So, once you start experiencing performance issues with your old Macbook, you won’t be able to get it repaired anywhere.
In this case, electronics manufacturers artificially reduce the life of their products. “Right to repair” advocates also talk about reducing environmental stress by requiring electronics manufacturers to allow third-party repair of their products.
Electronics manufacturers, on the other hand, oppose the “right to repair” movement. They argue that opening up their intellectual property to third-party repair shops could compromise the safety and security of their devices. And in the age of phone hacks and cyberattacks, these concerns cannot be dismissed either.
Interestingly, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak recently voiced his support for the movement. He said, and I quote: “We wouldn’t have had Apple if I hadn’t grown up in a very open technological world. The tech giant has long been criticized for allowing repairs of its devices only to certified technicians and for not providing replacement parts or manuals on how to repair its products.
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