Broken phones and tech at the center of Biden's right to repair debate: What's going on now The next time your dishwasher breaks or you crack the screen on your phone, you just might be the one fixing it instead of spending a fortune on an authorized repair.

Right to Repair can change the way we look at the products we break. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another: the moment you drop your smartphone, and your stomach turns when you see it fall to the floor. Then when you pick it up, there’s a split-second moment of suspense, praying it’s still in one piece. And if you see cracks, your next thought is usually, “How much is this going to cost me?”

While the government can’t help you if you’re a klutz, a new executive order from President Joe Biden could save you at least some money when you are. the new order, announced in early July, encourages the Federal Trade Commission to create new rules that prohibit companies from fixing their products to limit customers.

Biden’s executive order comes after years of debate by advocates for a “right to repair,” a series of rules that in theory would force phone developers, car makers, washing machine makers and even valuable agricultural equipment and Medical device companies publicly post the diagnostic tools and documentation they use to fix products when they break. This allows everyday people to either fix the product themselves or visit a third party repair shop instead of relying on “official” authorized repair centers, which are almost always the most expensive option.

The right to fix movement has been around for a while, and it’s already won in states like Massachusetts, where voters in 2020 approved a bill that would give third parties access to all kinds of data on cars. would allow access that the producers had not generally made public.

The FTC hasn’t announced any formal rules yet, but Biden’s order clearly shows the movement is gaining momentum.

Below are common questions about the concept of the right to repair, what it means for you and what the government is doing to make the right to repair a reality.

What is ‘Right to Repair’?

The right to repair is to give users and third-party companies the tools, parts, and manuals they need to repair the product they have purchased, such as a blender or a new laptop, rather than relying on the manufacturer of a product.

Another aspect of the right to repair that is currently being discussed is forcing tech companies to design and manufacture products that are easy to fix.

Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds, for example, are impressively small, which is part of the allure for them, but repair website iFixIt says they’re almost impossible to repair. This is a problem when you consider that a few years after you get your AirPods, the battery will start to drain. But instead of being able to take them apart and replace the batteries, you’ll probably feel compelled to buy another pair.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What does the right to repair mean to you as a consumer?

Should the government, whether at the state or federal level, pass a right to repair law, it would potentially give you the option to attempt the repair yourself without voiding the warranty.

Right now, if you have a cracked iPhone display and try to replace it yourself or have it worked out by a local repair shop and the person and/or company is not an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or the replacement screen is not Apple Approved Part, your iPhone may no longer be covered under Apple’s warranty.

The Right to Repair Act would also encourage more competition for repair services, which could drive down prices from third-party repair shops on everything from your phone to medical equipment to tractors.

What does the right to repair mean for the environment?

By allowing consumers to repair their products and extend their lives, this in turn will reduce the amount of waste and e-waste that ends up in our landfills.

Are tech companies against the right to repair or not?

Viewpoints are mixed. Last year, Bloomberg published a story detailing efforts by companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft to pass the right to repair bill and prevent it from becoming law.

Argument? Intellectual property and security. If companies were forced to publish schematics, manuals, and sell official parts to anyone, the company argues it would put their products at risk of being copied.

As for safety, the companies claim that an untrained person, for example, replacing a battery, could pose a risk to their personal safety through accidental damage, which in turn could cause the battery to spontaneously combust.

At the same time, companies like Apple have gradually Open support for independent repair shops. Critics say Apple isn’t doing enough though.

Who Supports the Right to Repair?

While companies are wary of supporting the movement, a growing group of tech and social media influencers are starting to push for it.

Among them is Kyle Wiens, head of online manual and parts supply site iFixit. He has also traveled to legislatures across the country to encourage them to consider right to repair law. They declined to share recent sales figures, but in 2016, they sold $21 million worth of toolkits and parts to help people swap out bad screens, cameras, buttons, and batteries on their devices.

Another high-profile figure in the community is Louis Rossman, the owner of a New York-based repair shop that uses YouTube to teach its more than 1.5 million customers how to fix computers. Over the years, he has begun to advocate more for the right to repair, most recently through his advocacy organization, Fight to Repair and Repair Protection Group.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also spoke out in support of Rossman’s right to repair in a July cameo video.

“We wouldn’t have an Apple if I didn’t grow up in a very open tech world,” Wozniak said in his video. “It’s time to start doing the right thing… It’s time to more fully recognize the right to repair.”

How is the government engaging with the right to repair?

According to the Repair Association, a total of 32 states have considered or are currently working on adopting a right to repair law since 2014.

According to the US Public Interest Research Groups, in 2021 alone, 27 states are currently considering the right to repair legislation. The Repair Association and the US PIRG organization are both working with lawmakers to enact legislation and pass the right to repair.

The New York State Senate passed the Bill of Rights to Repair in June 2021, but it still needs to be passed by the Assembly before it can be signed into law.

At the federal level, Biden just signed the executive order issuing, among other things, the FTC “rules against antitrust restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own tools and equipment.” Asked to consider, as it relates to “cell”. Phone.”

The order also directs the FTC to consider uniform repair regulations for farmers, which make it easier to repair expensive equipment such as tractors.

What are other countries doing about the right to repair?

As of July 1, 2021, some device manufacturers in the United Kingdom are required to make replacement parts available to owners of their products.

The new law is not broad enough to include all electronic devices such as smartphones or computers. Instead, it is limited to devices.

Equipment manufacturers have two years to provide parts, and those parts must remain available for several years after the company stops making a particular product. But the law does not cover every ingredient that makes up the product. Instead, the bill is limited to repairs that are “safe” and can be done at home. For example, the BBC reported that heating elements or motors should be repaired by a “professional repairman”.

What’s next for the right to repair?

Right now, we’re waiting to see what the FTC decides to do after Biden’s executive order. The order only encouraged the FTC to issue a rule rather than mandate it.

As well as watching the FTC, we will continue to monitor the proposed right to repair legislation working through various stages of the process at the state level across the country.

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