The Right to Repair movement is growing around the globe as consumers and businesses seek ways to more easily and affordably repair their items - from household goods and electronics, clothing and computers up to large appliances and farming equipment.
The Right to Repair movements is focused on passing legislation overcome a host of barriers to repair. Barriers consumers face in repairing their own items includes hard-to-repair design, companies claiming intellectual property over the information and parts necessary for repair, and repair being more affordable than replacement.
While the Right to Repair movement has gained traction globally, it faces powerful opposition, yet continues to be bolstered by online communities and advocacy organizations.
The 2018 International Repair Day pushed for the Right to Repair, focusing on access to information, parts, and equipment needed for repair, as well as making items more durable and repairable. In the European Union, the Parliament approved recommendations to make it easier to repair electronics like laptops and cellphones as well as extend their lifetimes. There are also proposals for items like lighting, televisions, and large appliances. In the US, 20 states have filed legislation for the right to repair electronic products. There is also legislation at both the federal and state level for legislation establishing the right to repair for independent auto repair shops. In Canada, Ontario MPP Michael Coteau introduced a private member’s bill that would amend Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act that would make electronics repair easier for individuals and repair shops. Quebec’s Bill 197 also hopes to outlaw planned obsolescence as well as bolster consumers’ right to repair.
Though advocates continue to push this legislation, they face opposition from powerful corporations. Claims from these companies include consumers attempting repairs to their phones might cause the lithium batteries to catch fire or cut their fingers on broken glass if they try to repair the screen. Apple lobbyist Steve Kester claimed the right to repair could open up opportunities to hackers, which security experts have shot down. These companies have in some cases also filed suits against unauthorized repair shops or individuals teaching how to repair their items over spaces like YouTube. They claim the information and parts needed to repair their items are protected under intellectual property laws.
Despite such opposition, repair knowhow is spreading through online forums and channels, as well as through in-person workshops. Online resources like the Open Repair Data Standard, iFixIt, RepairMonitor, and Fixometer aim to make repair information, such as data and manuals, accessible through open source. Meanwhile, organizations like Repair Café (Netherlands) and Fixit Clinic (US) run repair workshops that enable people to learn how to repair their items.
In Vancouver, groups like Repair Matters, Free Geek, Frameworq Education Society, and MetroVan Repair Cafes run workshops to teach consumers the skills they need to repair their items as well as offer free repair. Items include kids’ toys, clothing, electronics, and more. At the Share Reuse Repair Initiative, we are looking at how consumer demand for repair can be better met through repair workshops and government policy.