Upholding the right to repair

News: The U.S. state of New York recently passed the Fair Repair Act. It has also ignited the debate in India on providing right to repair to the consumers.

The US’s Fair Repair Act requires manufacturers to supply repair information, tools, and parts to independent repair shops and not just their own stores or partners.

It will provide the repair shops a level playing field with the company’s store and also provide them with the security from intellectual property (IP) rights violations.

What are the issues in ensuring Right to repair?

At present following issues are faced in the process of repair by third parties:

Manufacturers claim that the quality and functioning of the product might be adversely affected if they allow repairs by consumers and third parties. This claim is correct due to absence of repair instructions and genuine parts.

Manufacturers incorporate warranty clauses which lapse when the product is repaired by a third party.

Often, manufacturers reduce the durability of the product. It compel consumers to either repurchase the product or get it repaired at exorbitant prices fixed by the manufacturers.

What rights can be provided to the consumers or repairers?

A blanket waiver of warranty should be avoided when the product is repaired by a third party. To protect the quality of the product, clause can be incorporated for use of company-recommended spare parts and certified repair shops.

Manufacturers can sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect the IP with the certified repairers/businesses.

A repair certification/licence can be allotted to those who pass certain criteria and skill tests. It will provide employment and skills to the certified persons to handle the repair manual.

What legal changes are required to ensure right to repair?

The ‘right to repair’ can be said to be implicit in Section 2(9) of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. However, it is not being followed. Thus, explicit insertion of a ‘right to repair’ clause is required in the act.

The product liability clause under Section 84 can be amended. It should be expanded to impose product liability concerning various reparability parameters of the product.

France requires manufacturers to display a repairability index on their products which consists of five parameters. This helps consumers understand if the products are repairable, difficult to repair or not repairable at all. India can also follow this practice.

EU’s guidelines on Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations, 2021. Guidelines mandate manufacturers to provide spare parts for up to 10 years to avoid premature obsolescence.

 

Source: This post is created based on the article “Upholding the right to repair” published in The Hindu on 14th June 2022.

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