The concept of the right to repair is right there in the name! It is a concept that believes when owning something, you should have the ability to repair it yourself or the autonomy to bring it to a technician of your choice. This concept can be applied to vehicles and household appliances, and within more recent years, technology as well. People should not be forced to pay expensive prices to repair something, that can all too often be done by themselves. There are many excellent and informative resources that touch on the right to repair, the history behind the movement, and more! Below are the top three resources that we have compiled that help to better explain what the right to repair is and how YOU can join the movement.
NEW YORK TIMES: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE RIGHT TO REPAIR
Thorin Klosowski, in his New York Times article about the right to repair, talks about what it means, why it is needed, and safety concerns as well. Klosowski explains that people are typically used to the right to repair in the realm of automobiles or similar restoration projects. He asserts, however, that in the growing age of technology and wearable tech, that people deserve the right to repair. He speaks on The Repair Association, a right to repair advocacy group. The objectives of this group are to: make information available, make parts and tools available, allow unlocking (cell phones), and accommodate repair within design. He goes on to speak about the importance of the movement, and safety concerns as well. It is a highly educational read that can teach you a lot about the importance of this movement.
IFIXIT: WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO REPAIR EVERYTHING WE OWN
iFixIt is an online repair manual with repair guides for all sorts of things: from iPhones, to computers, to Roombas! They have an informative and engaging page on their website educating readers on the right to repair, as well as the monopoly that manufacturers have on the field or repairs. They also touch on a Consumers’ Bill of Rights as well. Since the iFixIt was created, over three million people have joined to teach others how to repair their own stuff–and thousands more people join every day! The Consumers’ Bill of Rights is a proposed bill that calls for access to repair information, products that can be repaired, and reasonably-priced independent repair shops. Check out this page for some easily digestible and highly accessible information on the right to repair and the repair monopoly.
POLICY OPTIONS.ORG: CANADA NEEDS RIGHT-TO-REPAIR LEGISLATION
In this article, author Anthony Rosborough touches on the topic of right-to-repair legislation in Canada. Similar to the previous two articles on the topic, Rosborough touches on the inaccessibility of repairing our constantly evolving technology–whether it due to tight grips on replacement parts, restrictive designs, digital locks, or other legal blocks. He believes that it is due time for right to repair advocates in Canada to join forces and put forward extensive solutions on the table. He believes that we must lobby at all levels of government for legislative changes that will enable not only the right, but also ability to repair. Check out this article for more information and ideas about achieving the right to repair through lobbying!
WHY CARE ABOUT REPAIR?
There are a plethora of reasons that repair is important and that you should care about the right to repair. Let’s go through three main reasons!
First and foremost, there are the economic impacts. Repair costs far less than replacement. It supports local workers and economies, and enables resale markets to flourish. All too often, we see overpriced and unaffordable repair service from companies that create these products. They make these unaffordable in hopes that consumers will instead replace their items, a smartphone for example, rather than get them replaced. This puts more money in the companies pockets, and less money in ours. Supporting local repair shops, or repairing yourself, saves you money and can help support local economy in the process.
We also have environmental impacts. As we all know, all products that we own are derived from environmental resources–everything is made from something. Adopting a mindset of repairing rather than replacing reduces harms associated with extraction, manufacture, distribution, recycling, and generates less e-waste. Repairing an iPhone, for example, will reduce demand and therefore any harms associated with the purchasing of a new cell phone. We must transition from the take-use-waste mindset to a more circular mindset.
Finally, we have social impacts. Repairing something, regardless of size, is empowering! It provides the consumer with self-determination, a sense of creativity, and provides autonomy in the process. Not only are you saving money, being creative, or asserting autonomy, but you also gain brand new skills in the process. Some more social impacts consist of repair cafes or workshops as well!
BARRIERS TO REPAIR
The reason that we are talking about the right to repair and the importance of initiatives such as repair cafes, is because we currently operate within a market that prioritizes replacement over repair. There are a wide array of barriers that consumer must navigate in order to be able to repair their own products. Listed below are just six of many impediments to repair!
This section is based on research by UWO researcher Alissa Centivany, presented in her talk “Why Repair Matters for our Things, our World, and our Selves” at Big Data at the Margins, October, 2021.
So many products that we use in our daily lives are designed with the intent of replacement. Designers create their products so that it is far more difficult for a consumer to repair the product than it is to simply purchase a new one. If companies design their products and allow for ease of repair, they inevitably lose out on money and potential customers.
Companies make the process of repair extremely time-consuming, tedious, and difficult on the consumer. Businesses work to capture the repair market, making it expensive and convincing consumers to replace instead. Our products are designed with short lifespans in mind, so that we, as consumers, are forced to purchase the newest and best versions, instead of being able to repair.
Companies make repair more difficult by creating scarcity–ensuring equipment needed for repair is not readily available for consumers or third party repair businesses. Only licensed technicians for the company have access to these materials, creating a huge inequity in who can repair products.
Things like manuals, schematics, and other necessary information needed for repairs. This information is too often locked up and not accessible to consumers to easily educate themselves on repair. Information and material assymetries intersect with one another to prevent consumers from being able to repair.
Contracts and intellectual property laws work in tandem to create barriers to repair. Manufacturers/companies make it extremely difficult to repair by not giving information keys/manuals to consumers. Consumers are forced to see the company for repairs unless they want to void warranty or seek legal repercussions.
The least researched impediments to repair. Some of the reasons that we do not repair are fear or apathy of not doing it correctly. Through strict advertising and social pressure, we are led to believe that new things are better than repair and so if something breaks, it is best to just replace it.