Right to Repair: Yes… Perhaps… Someday

The BBC had a good article on Friday about the right-to-repair movement, starting with the story of a Canadian student turned cellphone repairman, first for himself and then his classmates. It’s worth reading.

We’re hearing more and more about the right to repair, or in any case about a will to try and get manufacturers of electronics to stop the planned obsolescence of their products. Although the movement is starting to make some headway, the trend remains for manufacturers to produce goods as cheaply as possible without giving any thought to allowing for eventual repairs. Today, as it’s been since the 1950s, smart manufacturers want a product that customers are satisfied with and then replace, ideally with the same make. The goal is to create products that are good enough to get good reviews (and accompanying sales) which the typical consumer will not mind upgrading not too far down the line.

Of course, this trend is doing nothing to help the planet, notably because of the natural resources extracted at great cost and quickly sent to landfills once the product gets discarded, often after only 2 or 3 years. Suffice it to say we can do better.

Proponents of the right to repair are pressuring the industry to start changing its model, so as to start making products designed to make repairs easy, but also that CAN be repaired. In practice, this requires making information and parts available to customers who’d rather repair their product than replace it outright.

Europe is making some progress in enacting laws that will start nudging companies in that direction, but we’re seeing little movement on this front in North America. Though Canada briefly contemplated a private bill about the right to repair (in 2019), not much is happening since, notwithstanding the growing demand from consumers.

Finally, on a related note, a friend recently shared a good piece in Wired about the Taylor ice cream machine at McDonald’s restaurants. It seems the machine at issue is imposed on franchisees who wish to offer the McFlurry desert, along with an onerous maintenance contract and little or no information allowing them to maintain the machine. It seems that franchisees are now attempting to diagnose and better control the machines (including by relying on third-party custom products to do it) which the franchisor’s not too happy about. It’s another good read.