Brands Who Try To Control Third Party Repairs Set To Be Hit
Brands that invalidate a warranty claim if a product is taken to a third-party repairer are set to come under pressure, as various Governments move to allow consumers to get their consumer electronics and appliance buys serviced where they want.
This week UK introduced new right-to-repair rules that legally require manufacturers to make spare parts available to people buying electrical appliances.
The European Commission has also announced plans for right-to-repair rules for smartphones, tablets and laptops.
According to the BBC later this week, US President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draw up rules on the repair of farming equipment.
This move would give farmers “the right to repair their own equipment how they like”, the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said.
In Australia, many brands have tried to stop overseas sales of their own products by claiming that warranties offered with the products are not valid in Australia. Others refuse to make parts available to third parties that are not part of their service repair network.
In the automotive market brands such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes make it extremely difficult for third party repairers by not giving them access to certain tools needed to repair a luxury vehicle as well as restricting them to software management systems.
As a result, automotive brands are generating millions in revenue from their service operations by controlling who can have access to vehicles.
In the USA it’s expected that the US Federal Government will introduce rules covering consumer electronic devices such as phones or game consoles.
The Biden administration has also been opposed to technology giants such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, which impose limits on who can repair phones and game consoles and say independent repair could affect the security and safety of devices.
Most of the 50 US states proposed a right-to-repair bill in 2021 – but only one, Massachusetts, has made it law.
Passed in 2013, the Massachusetts legislation requires vehicle manufacturers to provide diagnostic and repair information to owners and independent repair facilities for any car made in 2015 or later.
Recently the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and others, started a legal bid to block revisions to the law that would require expanded access to mechanical and electronic repair data.
In an effort to avoid new rules governing repairs some companies have said sharing information will violate their intellectual property (IP).
But the FTC appeared to dismiss those concerns in a report, which concluded: “The assertion of IP rights does not appear to be a significant impediment to independent repair.”
Other companies also cite safety as an issue, saying consumers or independent repair workers could be injured “fixing a product or using an improperly repaired product”.
California has introduced different variations of right to repair over the past few years, though with the state being home to many big technology companies – including Apple, Google and Tesla, all of whom are opposed to the legislation – it faces an uphill struggle.
And advocates such as iFixit founder Kyle Wiens expect it to take “a number of years” for the legislation to pass.
Large manufacturers and companies “donate a lot of money to politicians, and leadership will kill a bill,” he told BBC News.
“In other situations, it’s just it’s hard to get legislation passed.”
But Mr Wiens expects the FTC’s intervention to be a major catalyst for movement next year.
“Access to the knowledge of how to repair things is a fundamental human right,” he said.
Meanwhile, companies such as iFixit supply parts, tools and instructions to fix thousands of items, while YouTubers and Reddit communities help others get the most out of their devices by answering questions or giving advice on repairs.
And it is not just the access to the information these groups are fighting for.
They believe it is better for the economy and the environment if they can increase the lifespan of their devices by doing a simple fix such as replacing the battery in a laptop or a broken screen on a mobile instead of buying an entirely new device.
But for many of those in favour of the right to repair, it comes down to a simple fact – they paid for the device and should be able to do what they want with it.
“They sold it to me, it’s mine. They took my money, they didn’t have to take my money,” Mr Wiens told BBC News.
“I can take it apart and fix it if I want. If I want to throw it in the river, if I want to paint it pink, I can do that.”