The Right To Repair: What You Should Know

There are few things in life more frustrating than discovering that your device no longer functions properly. Whether it doesn't charge fully, has a cracked screen, or doesn't turn on at all, problems with electronics run the gamut from simple to complex. Getting these problems fixed often means taking your device to a shop. And this is where even more problems can come up.

You see, you can't just take most devices to any shop that you want. Authorized dealers have to fix them because independent repair shops often don't have the tools, parts, or knowledge required to fix what may be proprietary technology behind your broken device. The 'Right to Repair' aims to change this fact. Let's take a closer look at this important movement.

What is the 'Right to Repair'?

If you've purchased a device, be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or camera, shouldn't you have the right to choose where it's repaired, how it's repaired, and how much it costs you? Shouldn't you also have the right to fix it yourself if you possess the proper tools and knowledge to do so? That's the basic concept of the Right to Repair.

For years, manufacturers have made it increasingly difficult to get devices repaired by independent third-party businesses by limiting the availability of tools or putting restrictions on who is allowed to access the technical specs of their devices. The Right to Repair is a movement in Congress that is slowly gaining momentum in prohibiting manufacturers from placing such restrictions on repairing devices.

Why Are Big Companies Looking to Stop the 'Right to Repair'?

Many big manufacturers don't want their customers fixing their devices themselves or paying a third party to do so. Instead, these companies would prefer if customers paid them directly to fix the problems. Or, better yet, manufacturers would prefer their customers to purchase a new device.

Independent third-party dealers don't report to or pay big manufacturers, which means taking money away from the bigger companies. So, most manufacturers refuse to sell genuine replacement parts or offer any repair documentation to anyone other than authorized dealers. In fact, in the past, Apple has even gone to greater lengths. They've developed their own screws to hold your iPhone together. And these aren't just common security screws, but they are proprietary "Pentalobe" screws, which prevent users from easily cracking open their devices with a normal screwdriver.

Now, access to independent repair methods has almost always been available. Third-party dealers and repair shops still exist, and thanks to the internet, DIY repairs for some common and simple problems are possible. However, without the right tools, the proper parts, or the technical knowledge related to the software of your device, there's only so much you and independent dealers can do. This is where the Right to Repair comes in.

Some manufacturers have argued about the potential exposure to users' personal data that third-party dealers would have if given access to the tools needed to repair their devices. They've said that unvetted third parties having access to personal data would invite many unintended consequences for users, including security risks and identity theft. Other companies have argued that the code driving the software behind your devices is patented, proprietary technology, which further limits third-party access.

What Effect Would DIY Repairs Have On A Device's Warranty?

Many people have asked a question: "would attempting to repair a device yourself void the warranty?" And the answer to that question is no. It would not. Because of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, it's actually illegal for any company to void your warranty on the grounds of repairing or modifying a device yourself. The company would have to prove that your repair or modification was directly linked to the failure of a component within your device.

What Can You Do To Support The 'Right to Repair'?

In 2012, Massachusetts passed the 'Automotive Right to Repair' law, becoming the only US state that successfully signed a version of the 'Right to Repair' into law. Currently, over 20 states are considering similar legislation directed at the consumer tech sector and the healthcare and agricultural industries. If you want to support this movement, spread the word about it to as many people as you can. Call or write to your local legislature, start petitions, and raise awareness on social media. 

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