The Right to Repair Movement: An Explainer

Do you buy a new car when your car’s tire bursts? No, you simply buy a new tire. You have all the right to repair your car or any device that you own, right? But does that hold true for your cell phones, laptops, and other electronics too?

The answer might seem like an obvious yes, but in reality, this issue that looks shallow from above runs far deeper than most of us realize.

The Truth Behind Planned Obsolescence

Companies want to have as much control over their products as possible, even after you have bought them. That’s why major companies plan to make their products obsolete. In some extreme cases, companies even make older models intentionally slower, just to encourage the users to opt for the newest, more costly versions.

The primary reasons behind tech giants conjuring planned obsolescence are:

  • For ending the previous model’s updates, spare parts, and legacy systems
  • To encourage users to replace their old gadgets with the new ones

Though planned obsolescence is not inherently bad, it is companies’ simple asset management practice in some cases. As more consumers turn to the new models, companies may start incurring losses in continuous manufacturing of old versions of devices, spare parts, and software. A simple example is the outdated versions of windows.

But, the problem starts when companies force users to move onto the new software and hardware, just for the company’s profit, and, in turn, giving no good return to the users. Furthermore, environmental watchdogs criticize this move as unnecessary creation of e-waste. All this steam around the planned obsolescence have given rise to a consumer right movement, the right to repair movement.

What is the Right to Repair Movement?

The increasing costs, environmental concerns, and many other factors are driving users to demand devices whose components can be repaired, everything from the processor to the batteries and memory.

But, in many cases, companies won’t supply the necessary parts to repair or upgrade their equipment. Unfortunately, this means that consumers cannot fix their own products. Thus, forcing the users to either avail the high-priced repair services of the company itself or turn to third-party technicians for help.

This raging debate over the right to repair has captured the attention of mainstream media. The right to repair advocates demand the companies to provide:

  • Necessary repair information, ‘how to fix’ guide and manuals
  • Spare parts that can be used to repair the broken product
  • Repairable products

But, the right to repair debate does not end with technology. Vehicles, including cars and even tractors, have joined the march for the movement. But what exactly is fueling these consumer rights?

Why Does Right to Repair Concerns You?

Today, most of us rely on technology for almost everything, be it in workplaces or homes. As a result, keeping up with the latest model of phones, laptops, etc., has become the norm. But what if you don’t want to change your phone every 2-years? What if you don’t want new phones?

The major driving force behind the movement is the independence of repairing one’s own devices without being forced to stay updated with the latest technology models.

A larger debate around sustainability and environmental tolls has brought the movement into mainstream politics. As the movement is gaining momentum, the campaign is wide-reaching to impacts everyone related to any part of the development or usage of electronic products, in a nutshell, every one of us.

Independent Repair Shops

Arguably, the most profited section by the right to repair movement is the independent repair shops. Repair shops think that consumers should be able to buy simple items like batteries to help them get more out of their devices. So more and more companies are supplying tools and parts to the third-party repair shops as the pressure on mega-corporations is growing.


On the one hand, the right to repair movement has been backlashed by some of the major tech manufacturers, including Microsoft and Tesla, while other companies like Dell and Patagonia are happily releasing the repairing guides and spare parts of the products to the users.

Several technology companies claim that there is a risk of protecting their intellectual property from being discovered by a third-party repair service provider or amateur technicians. For example, a Tesla spokesman stood firmly against the right to repair, stating that allowing unauthorized technicians to work on Tesla’s products would be extremely dangerous for the company and consumer’s data and cyber security.

Should You Support the Right To Repair?

Since it is becoming very difficult for consumers to provide repairs for their electronics products, activists and consumer groups are advocating the ‘Right to Repair’ movement in full steam. Thus, it encourages consumers to do the repairs themselves or engage third parties to do them. But, should you support the movement or not?

Reasons to Encourage the Movement

  • The movement will boost small repair shops, which will, in turn, help local economies in the long run.
  • Electrical waste (e-waste) that piles up on the continent every year will be reduced by this movement.
  • Consumers will save money.
  • Circular economy objectives will be met by extending the life of appliances, restoring them to a reusable state, upgrading them, and recycling them.

Reasons to Oppose

  • Some of the largest tech companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Tesla, argue that opening their intellectual property to service providers or amateurs could lead to exploitation and detrimental effects on their safety and security.

Consumers v/s Manufacturer

A hotly contested issue, the Right to Repair, fights pits the consumer against the manufacturer, but it looks as if the consumer might have more clout in the future. Acceptance of the movement will result in consumers having more rights to pull apart, unlock, and repair the electronic devices they buy, and while the giant manufacturers lose their monopoly.

Right to Repair legislation gives independent shops and consumers the right to fight against companies. Across the proposed and actual laws, the main goal is to ensure the public has access to repair information and to stop monopolies on repairs.

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