Do you have the right to repair your phone if it breaks?

Do you have the right to repair your phone if it breaks?
Source: Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

What is “right to repair?”

  • “Right to repair” is a movement that’s fighting for the rights of consumers to fix their own belongings, particularly electronics, if and when they break.
  • Right to repair activists argue that because you purchase a device from a company, you should have the ability to do whatever you want with that device. But companies sometimes make it difficult to fix devices.
  • This problem is especially common in situations where original electronic manufacturers (also known as OEMs) void a warranty or refuse to repair items that you try to repair.
  • Think about those little “warranty void if removed” stickers that you sometimes see on electronic devices. Technically, it’s illegal for OEMs to void warranties for devices that people tried to fix, but the legal costs required to bring massive companies to court over the issue have long outweighed the costs of just paying for a new device.
  • This problem exists in other ways too. Some companies make it so that their devices require very specialized tools in order to perform repairs. Others will refuse to sell parts to third parties at all.
  • Behavior like this not only hurts individuals who want to fix their things, it can also hurt small local businesses that act as repair shops.
  • Activist organizations, such as iFixit, a tools and parts store that advocates for better right to repair laws, call practices like warranty stickers “scare tactics” and claim that the entire system gives OEMs a monopoly on repairing devices.

Why do companies make it so hard to fix your own stuff?

  • According to a statement Apple gave The Verge in 2017, the reason the company wants to control who can repair their products is because “authorized providers can ensure the quality, safety, and security of repairs for customers.”
  • For Apple and many OEMs like it, the quality of a product represents that brand as a whole. By controlling how repairs are made, companies can control the quality of the device not only at the beginning of its life, but near the end of it.
  • Safety is another reason that companies often give for wanting to prevent third parties from fixing products. These companies argue that electronics can be particularly dangerous and that unless the person fixing the device is trained by them, they can’t let them fix it.
  • The idea of security relates to data security for the user. When the user gives a device to a third party, companies argue that consumers take on too much risk.
  • These three things represent the sentiments felt by many industry leaders.

So do I have the right to repair my stuff?

  • Generally speaking, yes. In the United States, individual consumers do in fact have the right to repair their own devices without fear of warranties or further service being revoked, even if it means you took off a warranty sticker or something like that.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (also known as the FTC) seems to be on the side of right to repair activists. The FTC just sent a report to Congress clearly advocating for consumers’ right to fix their stuff.
  • However, most companies will put up quite a fuss if you do pull off that sticker and try to fix it yourself.
  • And safety concerns, though often overstated, can in fact be very real when dealing with electronics. So unless you know what you’re doing, it’s usually worth it to bring the device into a repair shop.
  • The bottom line is pretty basic, at least right now. While you can repair your own device, that doesn’t always mean you should.

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