What is the ‘right to repair’ movement?

Source: Indian Express  

Relevance: How the right to repair movement will be beneficial for consumer protection.


In recent years, countries around the world have been attempting to pass effective ‘right to repair’ laws. But the movement has faced tremendous resistance from tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft over the years.

  • The right to repair movement is gaining traction in developed countries, including the US and U.K.
  • On 9th July 2021, the US President signed an executive order. It has lifted restrictions imposed by manufacturers that limit consumers’ ability to repair their gadgets on their own terms. 
    • The UK, too, introduced right-to-repair rules that should make it much easier to buy and repair daily-use gadgets such as TVs and washing machines.
    • European Union’s right to repair laws require manufacturers to ensure that electronic goods can be repaired for up to a decade.
About Right to Repair Movement:
  • It is a movement to give every consumer the right to repair their own electronics and other products.
  • The movement traces its roots back to the very dawn of the computer era in the 1950s.
  • The supporters of the movement argue that electronic manufacturers are encouraging a culture of ‘planned obsolescence’. 
    • This means that devices are designed specifically to last a limited amount of time and to be replaced. 
    • This leads to immense pressure on the environment and wastage of natural resources, as manufacturing an electronic device is a highly polluting process.
      • It makes use of polluting sources of energy, such as fossil fuel, which has an adverse impact on the environment.
  • Objectives:
    • To prevent customer’s reliance on restricted and expensive authorized retailers for repairing their obsolete devices.
    • To induce the manufacturers to make durable and long-lasting devices.
    • Also, to prevent faster dumping of electronic devices into the landfill and encouraging judicious use of resources for environment protection.
    • To boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies. If a manufacturer has a monopoly on repairs, then prices rise exponentially and quality tends to drop.
But why do electronic manufacturers oppose this movement?
  • Large tech companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Tesla, have been lobbying against the right to repair. 
  • They argue that opening up their intellectual property to third-party repair services or amateur repairers could lead to exploitation. It will impact the safety and security of their devices.
  • These companies are constantly claiming that they are working towards greater durability themselves. 
    • This year, Apple took more steps towards reducing its contribution to e-waste. It has expanded its free, independent repair provider program in 200 countries.
    • Microsoft has pointed out how it improved the battery and hard drive of its third-generation Surface Laptop after it was criticised for making it next to impossible to replace the battery in older models.
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