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RIGHT TO REPAIR...

  1. TheMystic
    Lollipop May 9, 2021

    TheMystic , May 9, 2021 :
    From making good quality and durable products, companies have moved to a revenue model where the products that they make are a source of significant revenue, even for many years after they are sold. These are the different tactics employed:

    1. Core-Satellite Theory: Where you launch a core product (such as the iPhone) and then launch various accessories (satellites) whose sales are primarily driven by the core product. Earlier, it was just the cases and screen-guards. Now that list has expanded to include chargers, wireless chargers, earphones, etc.

    2. Unbundling: This is the latest strategy. Basic items such as the charger are now gone from the box. Earlier it was the earphones that they removed. Some companies like Samsung are giving basic chargers in the box. For fast charging that the phone supports, you have to buy it separately. Next in line will be the charging cable :)

    3. Revenue from Repairs: Make repairs expensive, so the customer either opts for an expensive repair or upgrades to a new device. Either of them will bring significant revenue.

    4. Planned Obsolescence: Last, but not the least, this is the worst a company can do. They are destroying YOUR property. It is one thing to stop support in terms of providing software updates, and completely another to hinder/ sabotage your user experience by using the software to throttle performance, drain battery, freezing, random shutdowns, etc, essentially forcing you to 'upgrade'.

    Here is where comes the Right to Repair! This is a movement against powerful manufacturers from across the industry spectrum, including but not limited to, automobiles, tractors, industrial equipments, electronic gadgets, etc. to allow the user to decide where he wants to get his product repaired. Manufacturers should stay away from making repairs difficult, and sabotaging the user experience using their software.

    In the gadgets space, it is Louis Rossmann (https://www.youtube.com/user/rossmanngroup) of the Rossmann Group who is the pioneer of this new bill. Of late, his efforts have begun to bear some fruit as popular YouTubers like MKBHD, Linus, and others have started speaking on this subject. I will link some of their videos in the comment section below.

    As much as it may sound absurd, the world has become a place where you a need a legislation to be able to repair something you own!

    Let's understand the arguments of each side:

    Arguments in support of Right to Repair

    Who is in favour: Consumers

    1. Significantly lower cost: If a component gets damaged, it makes total sense to replace just that, than replacing the whole motherboard. This results in huge cost savings.

    2. Convenience: Authorized service centres are few and far between. For minor repairs, such as replacement of battery, camera module, display, glass panels, etc., it makes sense to get it done from a competent local shop where genuine parts are available. No need to ship it to an authorized service centre that is hundreds of kms away, dealing with a courier company, waiting for weeks to get it back, etc. There is also the potential for damage that can happen during transit or at the repair centre itself and it is very difficult to pin the responsibility on someone in such cases.

    3. Significantly less e-waste: If something can be fixed by simply replacing a component, as opposed to replacing the whole structure, the result is significantly low e-waste.

    4. Ownership and Responsibility: When a user goes to an unauthorized repair shop, he does so voluntarily, fully aware that he may not be getting genuine parts, the repair work can be shabby, etc. He understands the risk and it is his decision to go ahead with it. The product is paid for and OWNED by the consumer. The manufacturer has no business in interfering in this process.


    Arguments against Right to Repair

    Who is against: Manufacturers

    1. Due to component miniaturization, and the desire to cramp maximum hardware inside a given form factor, it often becomes essential to solder/ seal components together to save space. This has the undesirable outcome of making repairs extremely difficult, as a single component cannot be removed easily without damaging some other component.

    2. Unauthorised repair shops can use non-genuine parts, that can result in anywhere from poor user experience to even dangerous incidents like the phone blowing up due to use of a knock-off battery.

    3. Such a legislation might require manufacturers to part with their patented technologies, design blueprints, component sketches, etc. This will result in stifling innovation going forward. This of course, is a rubbish argument. The Right to Repair bill doesn't require any of that.

    For example, if the battery of an iPhone has to be replaced, the repair shops only need access to original batteries, and the batteries should be easily replaceable. What Apple instead does is it uses micro-controllers that identify a change in component and prevents the phone from working properly, or uses other means to nag the user, such as a persistent error notification.

    Repair shops will need to run Apple’s proprietary, cloud-linked System Configuration app to authorize the repair, and only then the error will go away. And 3rd party repair shops don't have access to this system.


    How manufacturers make repairability difficult?

    1. Exclusive contracts with suppliers to supply an essential component (like a chip or micro-controller) only to the manufacturer.

    2. Using customized screws for which a screw-driver isn't available in the market. Same holds true for other components. The nature of customization is such that it adds absolutely no value, and is only a means to make repairs difficult.

    3. Using software to show nagging error notifications where none is necessary. For example, if you swap the battery of a brand new iPhone with one from another brand new iPhone of identical make, your iPhone will still show you an error notification (either permanently or continuously) for no reason. Even though there is actually nothing wrong, the nagging notification will deter consumers from getting the battery replaced outside the Apple network.


    What tactics do manufacturers employ to prevent repairs?

    1. They will block access to components at the source. Exclusivity contracts with the supplier.

    2. They will block access to components at the customs, i.e. you won't be able to import them.

    3. They may use the Operating System to identify an 'unauthorized' repair and remotely disable some functionality, or create other problems like draining your battery, forcing random shutdowns/ freezing, errors popping up, or just kill your device, etc to spoil your usage experience. Result? You will either go to an 'authorized' service centre, or just buy a new device.

    4. They use powerful lobbyists to campaign against passing of such laws. The Right to Repair legislation is a big blow against manufacturers who are in the business of profiteering on consumers' loss. All of them have lots of money, have access to the best legal minds, have connections with powerful lawmakers, and can use any/ all of these to block such a legislation from ever being passed.

    LIES MANUFACTURERS TELL YOU

    1. Apple removed the headphone jack, paving the way for wireless earphones, a new product in their portfolio. Explanation given at the time: Saving space for other hardware. That was a lie. No one saw any additional hardware taking up the space gained by removing the headphone jack.

    2. Impact on Environment: Apple removed the charger from the box. Reason: to reduce e-waste and save the environment. Another lie. They do a hundred times more damage by making repairs extremely difficult, which results in throwing away the whole device (as opposed to just the damaged component) and buying a new one. The other big loss, and an extremely important one, is the data lost. Data can be invaluable and Apple is totally unethical when it doesn't help with data recovery to keep its profit soaring. Imagine losing all the memories of an important life event just because your CPU stopped working, but the internal storage (where data is saved) was completely fine.

    3. Glass is premium: Total rubbish. They have marketed (paying influencers to constantly tell you how premium it feels, and influence the way you think) a fragile substance as premium so they can make money when it breaks. There are alternatives to glass that are durable and can be used to support wireless charging.

    What can be done?

    1. Increase the manufacturer warranty for a minimum of 5 years if repairs aren't permitted/ too expensive.

    2. Allow access to genuine spares and make them widely available.

    3. No exclusivity contracts with any component supplier.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2021

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  2. TheMystic
    Lollipop May 9, 2021

    Last edited: May 9, 2021

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  3. TheMystic
    Lollipop May 9, 2021

    Last edited: May 9, 2021

    #3
    Arjun_Choudhry likes this.