It might sometimes be amusing to watch or read about teardowns from the likes of iFixit, but those aren’t done for entertainment’s sake. The content found on the group’s website is geared towards helping users, at least the more advanced ones, do repairs of devices on their own. That, however, is against the wishes, not to mention explicit warnings, of manufacturers like Apple, who are now trying to block proposed laws that would apply the “right to repair” to electronic devices like smartphones.
This has been a long-standing tug of war between manufacturers and consumers’ rights advocates. And, truth be told, it is one where there are merits to both opposing views. On the one hand, you have consumers who, after paying for a device, do have an implied right to modify them as they see fit, which includes repairing them even without the expressed consent of the manufacturer. There are also third-party businesses that do thrive on offering more affordable repair services but are considered “underground” because they are not authorized by the manufacturers.
On the other hand, manufacturers also have the obligation to protect both their customers as well as their reputation. Not everyone is even close to being qualified to replace a shattered screen, for example. Even worse in the case of batteries, which are fire hazards in your pocket. Any misstep could lead to accidents which could end up in lawsuits. That said, it is no secret that manufacturers also profit from restricting repairs and replacement parts to authorized service centers.
Proponents of Right to Repair law, however, believe that clear warnings are more enough to dissuade less skilled individuals. Plus, actually making manuals and parts officially available to third parties might actually decrease the likelihood of accidents. Of course, that would mean that companies have to extra careful that trade secrets don’t leak out from those.
The Right to Repair legislation has been proposed in various states across the country, but only Nebraska has so far scheduled an actual hearing for it. If even only one state passes the legislation, electronics manufacturers might very well be forced to adopt it nationally rather than try and fight it in every state.