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"Right To Repair" - the problem in a name

I am a huge fan of repairing electronic equipment. It's a fun activity and very satisfying preserving good gear and bringing things back to life.

But I should state up front that I do not do this because of any sort of environmental concern or interest. However, what does chap my hide is wastefulness and pollution. Especially our steady progression as a throw-away society and our being subject to planned obsolescence.

As such, I am a supporter of movements like the Right To Repair in most respects to encourage people to reduce their electronic waste and learn valuable skills.

But… sometimes there can be a problem in a name:

The Right To Repair

Specifically the word Right brings with it overtones of entitlement, and the notion that access to the internal knowledge and workings of all products is simply our right.

Conversely, when a manufacturer outlays their capital for research in order to develop a product, their time and resources to produce materials, that company has the right to do whatever they wish with their product. We can, however, vote with our wallet. And if we purchase that product, we have the right (within the bounds of law) to do whatever we wish with it. But those two rights don't necessarily overlap.

We can also read the movement's title another way:

The Right To Repair

This is the right of the purchasing public to open, repair, change or break the item. We have always had that right. It doesn't need a movement. We don't need to be granted permission. We own our equipment and could at any time attempt a disassembly and repair. The obstacles of course, being experience, safety, and guidance in the form of service documentation like schematic diagrams.

But that's not really what the movement title is suggesting.

I would propose an alternative title:

The Request To Repair

Probably not as slick, and it certainly doesn't pack the intended punch of “sticking it to the man”. But what it does evoke is a sense that we are not demanding. We are asking that you work with us and look for opportunities to show goodwill in collaboration with the consuming public.

Repair Don't Waste

The Repair Don't Waste movement builds on top of Right To Repair. Their aim is to highlight for businesses that repair over replacement can be more sustainable and cost-effective.

Even as a hobbyist, this is the movement title that I feel more aligns to my viewpoint.

Service Documentation and Schematics

From a purely commercial standpoint, there is little motivation for a manufacturer to distribute material to the general public, or to make it freely available. Also Repair centres have to earn a crust too. This is their bread and butter.

There are some companies that are very open and willingly make their material easily available.

For those that do not, I would propose that manufacturers at least consider releasing material to the public when the age of equipment reaches the X year mark, a period clearly past the warranty period and still allows a good chunk of time for repair centres to earn their part.

Of course, any manufacturer willing to make their material open on release of a product makes them a favoured and admired brand.

When choosing between two similar products, and knowing one product had downloadable material, choosing in favour of the latter would be enticing for many. These actions can result in financial benefit.

Product Stickers?

Imagine this pipe-dream: the introduction of an Open To Repair/Modification sticker placed on products providing an incentive for manufacturers to signify that service materials are freely available.

Unfortunately it can be easily abused in much the same way that the Heart Foundation's Tick Of Approval became a corrupted way of tricking consumers into buying junk food.

A sticker could also be used as an incentive for retailers to increase prices.

Where to next?

These are exciting times for the Repair community, and things are definitely improving. The momentum is building, and I'm watching with great interest to see where this all goes.

Rather than going the entitled route using weapons like shame, regulation and social media call-outs, let's win the industry over with old-fashioned common decency and respect. Make it a win-win for producers and consumers alike.

Thank you

Quick thanks for Matty K and Jeremy S for reviewing and corrections, and Thomas of for use of the base headline image.

right_to_repair.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/28 00:38 by sausage