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A Right To Repair

Photo Courtesy of:  Andrew McConnell's "Rubbish Dump 2.0"

With the release of the newest iPhone X looming nearby (the drop date is set for November 3rd) it’s hard not to start itching for a replacement for whatever smartphone you currently own. Despite the fact that many people may have only owned their phone for as little as a year, the new iPhones often seem so irresistible that they ditch their barely used gadget for a shiny new one. But with the ever rising prices of smartphones, the iPhone 8 is priced at $800 and the iPhone X is speculated to cost around $1,000, it is getting harder and harder for people to be able to justify-or afford-these shiny new gadgets. Even those of us who attempt to delay trading in our old smartphones, often find it difficult due to the rapid pace at which they are slowed down by software updates or are deemed unrepairable.

The ability to fix smartphones without replacing the whole device is becoming increasingly harder each year, as the internal complexity of gadgets and appliances increases. In addition, tech companies are withholding surmounting technical information and are enacting several legal barriers that ban the repair of certain products. Products like the Amazon Echo also pose problems, because if tinkered with the wrong way the company may lose its ability to monetise off of the product’s data collection services. It is an old and low game and marketing strategy where once dependency is established between a product and its users, the companies that produce or distribute  them, manipulate the audience to their sole benefit, perpetuating that dependency. It happens with credit cards, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, digital devices.

Many companies state that by restricting repairability of products it protects consumer’s intellectual property and maintain consumer’s safety. But by prohibiting repairs it reduces the amount of innovations that will be made possible and the biggest pickle is that it will continue to add to the world’s growing waste and pollution problem. It is estimated that in 2017 alone 50 million tons of electronic waste is expected to be dumped. This toxic e-waste raises concerns about air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, information security, and human exploitation.

In response to this, the Repair Association (a lobby group funded by repair shops as well as by environmental organisations and other charities) is attempting to pass “right to repair” laws. If passed, this law would require companies in an array of industries to provide consumers and independent repair shops with the information, tools, and parts to adequately fix their products. Despite the stiff resistance they are facing, the Repair Association is hoping that if it gets passed in one important state it will spread to the country. Currently twelve states have introduced Fair Repair legislation, including: Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois, Tennessee, North Carolina, Iowa, Missouri, and New Jersey. If your state is listed, please take action and visit https://repair.org/stand-up/ where you can write a letter to your state legislators requesting their support on this issue.

For more information visit: https://www.economist.com/news/business/21729744-tractors-smartphones-mending-things-getting-ever-harder-right-repair-movement