The Right to Repair: Restoring Power to the Hands of Electronics Consumers and Small Businesses

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Many multinational corporations that engineer and manufacture electronics or motor vehicles have tough proprietary regulations that make it difficult or impossible for smaller, independent repair and refurbishing professionals to work on and resell the products. When it comes time to replace or restore electronics, these proprietary restrictions, contracts, and licenses revoke the consumer’s right repair their equipment wherever and however they choose, placing the right to do the job solely in the hands of the manufacturer. In these cases, the necessary software and firmware is locked to outside parties, and in a growing number of instances, the product’s license dictates that consumers cannot resell their products at all.

The Right to Repair is More Than a Matter of Business

The Right to Repair movement is taking hold in several states as a means of combatting this growing dilemma. Corporations that monopolize access to the tools for repair harm independent businesses’ livelihoods as well as place unfair restrictions on consumers that give them no option to shop for price, quality, and speed of service. Even more critically, revoking the right to repair creates less opportunity for sustainable reuse and recycling practices. When repair shops and refurbishing centers can’t unlock a device or are prohibited from reselling a product, the chain of electronic waste generation continues since manufacturers lock consumers into using the equipment until the end of its life, preventing it from being restored and resold to new consumers. With staggering data surfacing worldwide concerning the crisis of electronic waste, it’s more important than ever to grant the right to repair, which would shift focus from the forced consumption of new products toward refurbishing and reusing already-existing products that still have plenty of life in them.

Protecting the Right to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Considering how frequently upgrades appear in the world of technology—year after year, electronics that arrived just five years prior are rendered almost obsolete by droves of new generations of the same product—it would be beneficial for consumers to have the right to choose recycling and reusing older equipment that still has life in it rather than contributing toward landfill mass just because corporate profiteering dictates that new technology should be monopolized.

Help Move the Right to Repair Campaign Forward

Some important strides have been made in the Right to Repair campaign, and eventually signing the movement into law means first pressuring state lawmakers to pass the bills. In Minnesota, the non-partisan Fair Repair Bill is an effort to give the right to repair electronics back to independent businesses and individuals. Help put on the pressure by writing a letter to local representatives here.