What is a consumer's Right to Repair?

What is a consumer's Right to Repair?

The term "right to repair" conveys a simple message: if you own something, you should be able to repair it yourself or take it to a professional of your choosing. People are familiar with this concept when it comes to outdated vehicles and appliances, but right-to-repair activists claim that current technology, particularly anything with a computer chip inside, is hardly ever repairable. You can refer to our blog to know more about the Right to Repair movement. You should also find our brief guide to the right to repair interesting.

Manufacturers use a variety of tactics to make repairs difficult, such as using proprietary screws, refusing to disclose repair data, or gluing pieces together.

However, the situation is more complicated than that, and there are several issues that need to be addressed

In this article:

General Overview of the Setbacks

User safety is often cited as a compelling argument against the right to repair. Technology today is not as straightforward as it once was; disassembling your electronic equipment might be risky due to the presence of flammable elements and sharp metal pieces. There are valid concerns regarding potentially harmful components like high-energy lithium-ion batteries, as well as the use of unauthorized repair networks or illicit parts, which might jeopardize the safety of consumers. The infamous Samsung Galaxy Note 7 disaster in 2017 is the prototypical example of how a poor-quality battery may enable users' gadgets to explode, placing people in grave danger.

When it comes to the consumer, social compliance is essential. It is common practice for users to set certain social standards for measuring the performance of a device or vehicle and then discard it if it falls short of those standards. This is why manufacturers struggle to sacrifice efficiency in order to allow for repairability.

Issues concerning different Industries

Making items more repairable reduces their efficiency, but the implications don't end there. Every industry takes a different approach to this movement and what it brings with it. While various industries coexist in terms of manufacture, sales, or production, the impact and resulting concerns vary. 

Electronics: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Tesla are among the major technology companies that have lobbied against the right to repair. Their argument is that making their intellectual property available to third-party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation and compromise the safety and security of their devices. Tesla, for example, has fought against “right-to-repair” advocacy, claiming that such initiatives endanger data and cyber security. 

Industrial equipment, household appliances, smartphones, laptops, databases, consumer electronics, medical devices, and other connected devices are susceptible to cyberattacks, thereby presenting a threat to privacy and security. Electronics manufacturers argue that this could make it a cakewalk for criminals to circumvent the security measures of the consumers in this age of sophisticated cyber assaults.

Automobiles: In an interview with CBC, Peter Frise, a University of Windsor automotive engineering professor, traversed the automotive landscape in the aftermath of right-to-repair legislation. He explained how in the course of producing new technology, the auto companies create a lot of intellectual property — software, know-how, new materials, new manufacturing procedures, new design methodology — and they're hesitant to simply throw it out there because then other firms might just grab it.

He also expressed worry about product liability, stating that the firm may be held liable "if persons who are not allowed or who are not experts and do not have the equipment and expertise required to try to operate on one of their goods." Frise also stated that the costs borne by local repair businesses — those connected with acquiring software and recruiting or training workers on new technologies — will most likely be borne by the consumer. He went on to say that legislation like this is complicated and must be examined from a variety of perspectives.

The main question is whether vehicle owners and independent repair businesses should have access to telemetric data generated by their cars. As automobiles grow more complicated and automated, the data they produce becomes increasingly important for performing safe repairs, and hence, the matter is of concern to the respective vehicle users. 

Agricultural Equipment: In agricultural circles, the "right to repair" refers to the ability to repair both hardware and software for farm machinery. In recent years, the issue has been extensively contested in Canada and the United States, and legislation providing farmers with this right has been introduced in a number of places.

The difficulty is to strike a balance between an owner's freedom to maintain important and expensive agricultural equipment and manufacturers' significant investment in developing more complex digital devices.

While dabbling with digital equipment might introduce unanticipated hazards, farmers must still be able to operate when problems emerge. Legislation addressing the right to repair must find an agreement between the two interests.

Canada’s Situation

May's bill, which had received a preliminary reading in the House of Commons, aims to change Canada's Copyright Act to allow individuals to repair their own electronic equipment. According to Keith Currie, vice president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and zone 13 directors for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, this involves a number of technologies, including cars and other vehicles, and has clear consequences for agriculture.

If the law is passed, provinces will have the option of enacting further repair rights.

Take a look at our blog for more useful articles and guides, and remember as Canadians we should always have the Right to Repair!


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One of the strongest arguments against the right to repair is the ‘user safety’.

Tesla has fought back against the right to repair highlighting issues like cybersecurity and data security.

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Eric Smith
Right To Repair Advocate
A DIY geek, Eric combines his passion for automobiles and his deep engagement with right to repair issues to empower vehicle owners everywhere.