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What is Right to Repair?

The Right to Repair movement has only picked up speed over recent years, ramping up further after the attention on it initially rose over the last decade. The move coincides with manufacturers making it harder to repair your own devices. Here’s our full explanation of the global self-repair movement.

Over the course of the 21st century thus far, you may have noticed a requirement to simply buy new products to replace your old ones or only have the option to have a manufacturer repair its own products. So, what if you’d rather do it yourself and keep devices for longer? That’s where Right to Repair comes in.

There are some technology manufacturers who embrace this movement but far more seem to oppose it or, at least, obfuscate it. If you’re unclear on exactly what Right to Repair is and what it could mean for you, these are the key details.

What is Right to Repair?

Right to Repair is a movement for promoting consumer-repairable products, including campaigning for legislation to require manufacturers to participate in and enable the practice. As a legal term, Right to Repair refers to a legal right for consumers to modify and repair their purchases. Right to Repair campaigners aim to bring support for this type of legislation and raise awareness for its benefits, both economic and environmental.

The movement has led to companies like Apple changing its restrictive policies on consumers repairing their own products, and starting to offer repair kits to its customers as well as the option to have repairs carried out by some certified third-party companies. However, some still argue its practices remain limited and don’t go far enough.

By comparison, companies like Fairphone, Framework, Nokia and more have released products with a focus on the principles of the Right to Repair movement. All offer some kind of upgradeable parts scheme for some products, as well as the ability to use tools to fix and replace damaged components. iFixit, a company that provides tools and guidance on electronic repairs, has also been a vocal proponent of the Right to Repair movement.

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Right to Repair legislation on electronics has taken different forms across different countries. In the USA, we’ve recently seen New York state pass its first-ever Right to Repair law (via The Verge). The Fair Repair Act requires manufacturers that sell electronics in the state to make tools and parts available to both consumers and third-party retailers, as well as provide instructions on how to carry out repairs. However, even this step forward hit a snag, with a provision added allowing manufacturers to simply sell assemblies of parts, rather than individual components.

The UK isn’t as far forward on consumer electronics as the USA, with its most recent Right to Repair legislation only covering white goods and televisions, but excluding mobile phones, laptops and the like (via The First Mile). The legislation requires manufacturers to make instructions and spare parts available to consumers for up to ten years. But, the law lacks provisions on the potential cost of these spare parts, and also enables the sale of assemblies of parts, just like the New York legislation.

In March 2023, the European Commission adopted a new proposal on Right to Repair, with a focus on consumer savings and sustainability (via European Commission). The proposal commits to a right for consumers to repair their electronics, an obligation for manufacturers to provide the necessary information, an online platform for connecting repairers and sellers of refurbished goods, a European Repair Information Form that consumers can give to repairers to provide key information for points of comparison and a European quality standard for repair services to help consumers identify high-quality repairers. The proposal now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and European Council on its way to becoming EU legislation.

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