Advancement in technology makes life easier and more convenient. It can also lead to negative consequences. The more advanced technology becomes, the more manufacturers and retailers will find ways to profit off of these advancements to the detriment of the consumer. The most egregious way they do this is by stripping consumers of the right to repair.
The Right to Repair
It used to be that when something we owned broke, we had access to widely available parts and tools to fix the item ourselves at low to no cost to us. However, as parts, tools, and resources have become increasingly more proprietary in recent years, manufacturers have become much more reluctant to share these things with the public. In so doing, consumers have been “locked out” of the ability to repair items they have purchased.
It’s not illegal for consumers to repair whatever they buy. Proponents of the right to repair movement demand that manufacturers produce products that allow for spare parts and tools be made readily available to consumers and repair shops.
The Psychological Shift Away from Repair
One reason our right to repair has slowly eroded over time is the psychological shift from repairing our products to purchasing the next new thing. An incessant barrage of advertising and social media influencers telling us that we’re unfashionable if we don’t have the newest model phone, car, and the like has led to a need for consumers to continually upgrade their technology regardless of whether it still works or not.
This psychological shift allowed manufacturers to implement practices, such as planned obsolescence, that keep you from easily repairing your products, thus reinforcing the need to purchase a new product without you realizing it.
We No Longer Own; We Rent
When we as a consumer no longer have the fundamental right to repair and refurbish our property as we see fit, whether it’s a phone, a computer, an appliance, or a car, it becomes clear that ownership is nothing more than a word.
With the advent of leasing, consumers slowly got used to the idea of renting a product for a short period of time and then upgrading to the newest model. This, again, allowed manufacturers to push people into the mindset that repairing an item is nothing more than a waste of money. The inability to open your device to change a battery or swap software becomes a moot point. We don’t need to get inside; we just need to return the old item for a new one.
What does this mean for you as a consumer?
By placing more barriers on their devices, such as serialized or proprietary components, or pairing parts to the motherboard, manufacturers are forcing consumers to use their services (or an approved vendor) to repair their products. This creates a monopoly on repair services and artificially inflates the price to the point where it just becomes cheaper to buy new rather than repair.
These are the tactics that manufacturers have been using for a while, and it’s only going to get worse. Local repair shops are dwindling across industries and unless we start fighting back with our wallets, there may come a day when small repair shops become extinct due to their lack of access to the parts and tools needed to compete.
In our next blog, we will dig a little deeper into how our right to repair helps protect the environment, what our local governments are doing to help, and what you can do to fight for your right to repair.