Explained: What is the ‘right to repair’ movement?


The average consumer purchases an electronic gadget, knowing that it will very quickly become obsolete as its manufacturer releases newer, shinier, and more amped up versions of the same device. As your device grows older, issues start to crop up — your smartphone may slow down to a point where it is almost unusable, or your gaming console may require one too many hard resets. When this happens, more often than not, you are left at the mercy of manufacturers who make repairs inaccessible for most, by dictating who can fix your device and making it an inordinately expensive affair.

So, why aren’t consumers permitted to fix their gadgets themselves? This is a question advocates of the worldwide ‘right to repair’ movement have been addressing for decades now. In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective ‘right to repair’ laws. But it is no surprise that the movement has faced tremendous resistance from tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft over the years.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to curb restrictions imposed by manufacturers that limit consumers’ ability to repair their gadgets on their own terms. The UK, too, introduced right-to-repair rules that should make it much easier to buy and repair daily-use gadgets such as TVs and washing machines.

So what is the right to repair movement?

Activists and organisations around the world have been advocating for the right of consumers to be able to repair their own electronics and other products as part of the ‘right to repair’ movement. The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.

The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products and to keep them from ending up in landfills.

They argue that these electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’ — which means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced. This, they claim, leads to immense…

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