Daily News Analysis

Right to Repair Movement

13th July, 2021 Science and Technology

Context

  • In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective 'right to repair' laws.
  • But large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair.

 

About

  • Activists and organisations around the world have been advocating for the right of consumers to be able to repair their own electronics and other products as part of the ‘right to repair’ movement.
  • The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
  • The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products.

 

Issues

  • The average consumer purchases an electronic gadget, knowing that it will very quickly become obsolete as its manufacturer releases newer, shinier, and more amped up versions of the same device.
  • As devices grow older, issues start to crop up —smartphone may slow down to a point where it is almost unusable.
  • Result: Consumer is at the mercy of manufacturers who make repairs inaccessible for most, by dictating who can fix the device and making it an inordinately expensive affair.

 

Significance of the Movement

  • The goal of the movement is to get companies to make spare parts, tools and information on how to repair devices available to customers and repair shops to increase the lifespan of products and to keep them from ending up in landfills.
  • Electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’ — which means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced.
  • This, leads to immense pressure on the environment and wasted natural resources.
  • Manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process.
  • It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
  • For instance, a New York Times report states that the mining and manufacturing materials used to make an iPhone “represent roughly 83 per cent of its contribution to the heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere throughout its life cycle”, according to manufacturing data released by Apple. It’s about 57 per cent for the average washing machine.
  • Right to repair advocates also argue that this will help boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies.