What is the Right to Repair?

About the Right to Repair 

Right to repair is a movement to give consumers the option to decide who fixes their electronic items, rather than being bound to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). It acknowledges the high environmental cost of a linear economy, also known as a take-make-waste society, particularly when it comes to electronic goods.  

In opposition to the linear economy is the circular economy. The circular economy promotes keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials when they have reached their true end of life. 

Unfortunately, consumers do not currently have the right to repair their devices, including many cell phones and laptops, because companies maintain the legal right to their own designs and products. What this means is that, in some circumstances, it might be illegal for you to fix something you own.  

It’s clear that there are numerous benefits of the right to repair. Right to repair is all about the consumer’s right to choose who, what, where, why, when, how, and for how much their equipment is to be repaired. 


Right to Repair in the US 

The Fair Repair Act was filed with Congress by Congressman Joseph Morelle (D-NY). This act would make it a requirement that manufacturers provide device owners and independent repair stores access to the tools, parts, and information they need to fix electronics. The Fair Repair Act also punishes manufacturers if they don’t comply. It allows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to penalize those who violate these provisions through civil penalties including payment of damages, reformation of contracts, and refund of money or property and authorizes State Attorney General to enforce the bill’s provisions.

On June 10, 2021, the US Senate voted 51-12 in favor of the Fair Repair Act. This is a major milestone for the right to repair in the US. The next stage for the right to repair will take it to legislation in 2022. More than half of US states are considering some form of right to repair legislation. For example, the New York state Senate recently passed right-to-repair legislation similar to what was filed at Congress.  

The right to repair in the US would bring about real economic benefits. For instance, for every 1,000 tons of electronics in the US, repair creates 200 jobs, whilst recycling creates 15 and sending items to landfill creates only 1 job (source). 

There is reason to be optimistic about the right to repair in the US as repair legislation has been passed once before. In 2012, Massachusetts passed a state law requiring auto manufacturers to provide repair shops and consumers with access to diagnostic repair information and spare parts. It took just one bill passed in one state, and within two years, it became a US federal law. 


Right to Repair in the EU and UK 

There have been a few recent advancements in the right to repair movement in the EU and in the UK. In March 2021 the EU Parliament approved establishment of a ‘right to repair.’ This ties into the EU Circular Economy Action Plan designed to reduce waste and lead global efforts on the circular economy, and the Ecodesign Directive designed to improve energy efficiency.  

In July 2021, the UK Right to Repair rules were introduced. There is much improvement to be made however, as this only addresses white goods with only simple repair parts being made available. This was in response to the EAC enquiry into electronic waste. This recent EAC enquiry investigated how the UK might reduce its environmental impact, create economic opportunities, and maintain access to critical materials by better managing and reducing its electronic waste. 

 The UK could see significant benefits with a full right to repair movement including economic value retention and job creation. It is predicted that 450,000 jobs in the UK in the next 15 years will be created as a result of the right to repair. A second hand iPhone is worth 50% of its new equivalent on the secondary market. If you recycle that iPhone it would only be worth 0.23% of its economic value. 

There is a groundswell of support for right to repair in the UK as uncovered by the Restart Project. They found that regardless of age, geography, political affiliation and socioeconomic factors, people are overwhelmingly in support of a universal right to repair in the UK. In their recent YouGov poll, the Restart Project found that 81% of respondents were in support for the right to repair to be extended to electronics, like smartphones and laptops, design for repair, access to spare parts and repair documentation. 


Techbuyer Supports the Right to Repair 

In the US, EU and UK, Techbuyer has been closely following the right to repair movement for some time. Our expertise in refurbishing, repairing, and remanufacturing IT equipment makes us acutely aware of the precious materials they contain. Even the best recycling technologies cannot recover all the critical raw materials in this equipment, many of which are in scarce supply. The ideal solution from an environmental standpoint is to extend the life of IT equipment. 

We aim to spread the word as much as possible on the value of a circular IT economy. The more organizations that work with the secondary market to extend the life of IT equipment and save on resources, the better from an environmental standpoint. We recently presented our thoughts on the right to repair and our ground-breaking research on refurbished IT, check out the video clip on YouTube: What is the Right to Repair?