My father and his father were repairmen of sorts. No, not as an occupation, but as a means to keep products working without spending a fortune to pay someone else to do what they could do. Cars, appliances, even TVs and radios could be repaired by my older relatives, and probably yours, too.
What about today’s growing list of electronics? Could you repair your iPhone? How about a Mac? What would you do if Watch, AirPods, HomePod, or iPad stop working? Do you dig into each device to see what is making it not tick? Or, does something broken necessitate a trip to the Apple Store Genius Bar?
Rights vs. Wants
An important battle is brewing in courts around the country. It’s called The Right to Repair. While it’s true that I have no intention or desire to open up a pair of faulty AirPods, or figure out how to get into an iPhone that doesn’t work, I want the right to do so without penalty.
The right to repair electronics refers to government legislation that is intended to allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services or void the product’s warranty.
I many never ever repair an Apple product again, or even replace an internal component. But I want the right to do so because that right can help third party companies to repair what needs repair.
Have you looked under the hood of your car?
Once there was a time when I could adjust the carburetor and change oil. My father and his father could rip apart an engine or transmission and effect needed repairs. Those days are gone. I have trouble finding the windshield washer fluid in our car without the manual. I won’t be repairing the car, refrigerator, or most electronic devices any time soon. But I want that right for those who can.
The right to repair concept has generally come from the United States. Within the automotive industry, Massachusetts passed the United States’ first Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act in 2012, which required automobile manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles. While not passed at the federal level, the major automobile trade organizations signed a memorandum to agree to abide by Massachusetts’ law in all fifty states starting in the 2018 automotive year.
Senator Elizabeth Warren went to Iowa and came out in favor of the right-to-repair farm equipment. I own a John Deere riding lawnmower and other devices and while I do not intend to effect repairs myself, I want that right.
Warren’s proposal explicitly addresses farming equipment like tractors, requiring manufacturers like John Deere and Case Corporation to make all diagnostic tools and equipment manuals easily available for consumers who would rather repair their own machines instead of needing an authorized repair agent to fix them.
The benefit to those of us who have products we cannot repair ourselves is obvious. The Right to Repair will break the monopoly that Apple, John Deere, and other manufacturers have over how a product can be repaired and maintained. When your Mac stops working, where do you go? Apple and the Genius Bar.
Would you prefer a few additional choices? Yes.
Apple does not like The Right to Repair for a variety of reasons, including financial. Apple makes money on such repairs. Stickiness is included in the formula, too. Customers stick to Apple for repairs because there is nowhere else to go.
The Right to Repair will introduce choice and that means competition. There is no competition for iPhone and iPad App Stores and what has happened to app prices in recent years? A little competition is good for an economy and additional repair options can benefit all of Apple’s customers.