The obvious flaws in the Right to Repair Movement no one is talking about (Part 1)

by Phillip Aiken on February 03, 2020

The Right to Repair law (aka the Fair Repair Act in many states) are designed to make it easier for people to repair their broken electronic devices—like smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, cameras, and and other machinery like tractors. The act wants the manufacturers to let repairs be easily done on devices like these. The legislation would also require them to release repair information to the public and sell spare parts to owners and independent repair shops. If it is passed, the laws would give consumers as well as repair stores more options than just the manufacturer.

Apple and many other big tech names are opposing this bill because they feel it would cause issues due to poor repairs, poor part quality, injury, and exploding batteries from improper removal. While all of this seems understandable at first, this is rarely the case with "poor" repairs. These "dangerous" issues could easily show up just using a device without opening them. Look at the Note 7, it was one of the most unsafe devices ever made and Samsung, which tried to fix the issue was unsuccessful.

So this brings me to my point. Why are the manufacturers really opposed to the Right to Repair Act? Why don't they want their devices fixed by 3rd party repair services? If its because of fear of loosing profit, then why don't we figure out how to make manufacturers more money while also supporting the repair industry? Trying to make manufacturers support a bill that they are afraid of by pounding the table and saying you want it to pass because its "only fair" or "people will loose their jobs" won't work. Apple and Samsung don't care about your profit, only theirs. So lets support the manufacturer in these Bills so they can be compelled to support them. Here's my thoughts.

I'm no expert in laws but I feel I have an opinion about the Right to Repair Act and how it is being promoted AGAINST manufacturers which is causing them to get defensive. Many arguments that fall flat for this Bill include:



The argument made by and other advocates is that repair stops "e-waste" is untrue. This is impossible. Repairing does not protect the environment or landfills from obsolete devices because once a device is deemed “obsolete”, repairing it will not make that device somehow useable again. Do you really think fixing a dot matrix printer will make it "reusable"? 



The argument that if you buy something, you should be able to do anything you want with it, is another fallacy. There are few objects you can buy where you can do whatever you want with it. A vehicle has to be registered and you can only drive in certain designated places and it can be impounded if you park incorrectly, or if you drive over the speed limit too many times. A gun has to be registered and can't be carried in stores that say "no concealed weapons allowed", and you can't just wave it around in public without getting arrested. You can't do anything you want to your house, you have to follow building codes and follow rules for the neighborhood you are in. You can't even do anything you want with your stereo system, like playing it super loud at night or blasting it out in the open. So why would you think you can do "anything" you want with a phone? You still have to register the IMEI to get service, you have to have a sim card to activate the phone, you can't increase the signal strength too high due to signal regulations for wireless devices, etc. You really don't own ANYTHING, you are only allowed to use it within established parameters for that device. However, repairing it is ONLY restoring it to its original function, its not doing just "anything" to it.



Yeah, and hackers, cyber villains, digital stalkers and makers of viruses and malware agree too. Why do you think unlocking and modifying the OS of devices is resisted by manufacturers? To protect both the end user and their own services. Hackers want to shut down services people use daily just for the fun of it. If this means manufacturers have to "lock" the OS from being modified then let them do that. Whatever freedom you have to tinker, will also give freedom to the hacker and cyber villains.



Yes, I agree that companies who use copyright laws to prevent their manuals to be used for repair are abusing the law. But their motivation is for money, not to stop repair. I believe manufacturers can care less about you repairing your vehicle, phone or tractor. Its all about greed. Locking down information so that you can only use their "special" or "certified" and expensive service technicians is all about money. By them using this tactic, it means they are making more money from fighting the Right to Repair movement than supporting it. This just supports my first claim that we need to work WITH manufacturers so that profit actually INCREASES when they support repairs from 3rd parties. We need to ask manufacturers what they would need in order to make the Right to Repair Act benefit them.


Really? Do you really think manufacturers are going to support "tinkering"? What is your definition of "tinkering"? If I sold a lawn chair, I wouldn't want my customers to follow a trend where they strap wheels to it and use it as a race car and hurt themselves. I wouldn't want people to mod their toaster to print their name on it by attaching metal wires inside of the coils, because thats dangerous. I wouldn't want someone to mod their car to be able to turn sideways when they turn a corner. Repair and "tinkering" are two different things. Repair RESTORES a device to manufacturer established function while TINKERING just tries to poke and mod things just for the fun of it and bring it FARTHER AWAY from the manufacturers established function. We should be fighting to RESTORE damaged devices to working condition, not to have fun pulling out wires inside just because. 


Stay tuned to part 2 of my rant on the flaws in the Right to Repair movement.