What is the Right to Repair Movement?

right to repair.

Right to Repair Movement, What? Let’s Understand this!

In July 2021, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring the Federal Trade Commission to prevent companies from restricting customers from repairing their own products, including laptops, smartphones, cars, washing machines, and heavy manufacturing equipment.

As a part of the European Union’s Circular Economy Action Plan of Carbon Neutrality, by 2050, legislation will be planned for electronic devices to curb e-waste and improve product sustainability.

Consumers usually spend a lot of money on household appliances and equipment and sometimes find that they are outdated within a few years of purchase.

For example, the battery of a Smartphone may degrade over time and reduce the performance of the device. If the battery is not replaceable, it will force consumers to discard the device and spend thousands of rupees on a new phone. Fragile and irreparable components can also shorten the life of the product.

Manufacturers give up support for functional devices and non-standard components. The newer technology consists of irreparable and irreplaceable components, especially if it is driven by complex computer chips; the product becomes difficult to repair.

The purpose of this movement is to allow consumers to repair their electronic products by themselves or by external technicians. As of 2021, over 32 states in the United States have introduced legislation for the Right to Repair, and only Massachusetts has passed a law. The Motor Vehicle Owners Maintenance Law passed in 2012 requires automakers to provide necessary documents to allow outside technicians to repair their vehicles.

Tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla expressed concern that the maintenance rights movement threatened the protection of intellectual property rights and trade secrets.

Apple was fined $113 million last year for artificially slowing down all older iPhone models. In 2017, Apple began offering battery discounts to affected users. Critics said that if third parties could replace batteries, such discounts could have been avoided.

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Microsoft and Google also opposed the legislation and said that the Right to Movement allows unauthorized access to sensitive diagnostic information and software technology. Tesla’s Elon Musk has said that such behavior will weaken the system’s network security and make it vulnerable to attacks.


E-waste in India

  • Official Data:
    • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated over 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18.

However, India has drafted no legislation specifically with respect to the Right to Repair.

But soon India may also come up with such a Right to Repair legislation as some Indian Initiatives clearly show the ambitions of India to curb e-waste:

E-Waste Management Rules, 2016:

The rules aim to enable the recovery and/or reuse of useful material from e-waste, reducing the hazardous wastes destined for disposal, and ensuring the environmentally sound management of many wastes of electronic equipment.

E-Waste Clinic:

Aimed at segregating, processing, and disposal of waste.

In a country like India, bringing up laws relating to repair rights can be valuable, where the service network is often uneven, and authorized workshops are few and far apart.

The informal repair sector in India has done a good job with ‘desi jugaad’. Still, we all know there are always limitations to such practices and risks of damaging the devices.

However, if such legislation is passed, the quality of repair and maintenance services can be improved significantly.

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