'It's our stuff': consumers wage right-to-repair revolution

6 min read
Making it easier to repair consumer goods would cut waste, lower emissions and help consumers, too, advocates say
* U.S. and European lawmakers champion 'right to repair'

* Fixing electronic goods reduces e-waste, emissions

* Companies cite risks of unauthorized repairs

By Carey L. Biron and Umberto Bacchi

WASHINGTON/TBILISI, Oct 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - James Sampson runs a tech repair shop in suburban Washington D.C. - fixing wayward phones and lagging laptops - and sees his tiny store as one part of a brave, new consumer rights revolution that can protect the planet, too.

Increasingly concerned about electronic waste and planet-warming emissions, European and U.S. lawmakers want manufacturers to make it easier for people like Sampson to repair the gadgets that are now so intrinsic to daily life.

"This is what we need more of in our society – we throw away too many things," said Sampson, who recently opened two additional Wireless Rxx branches in Arlington, Virginia, and plans more to meet growing demand.

His typical customer is "a mom with a broken iPad, or a teenager from a local school", many of whom balk at the lost time and cost of authorized repairs, if they can get one at all. Often, that means the alternative is dumping the faulty device.

Critics say many manufacturers try to make their products difficult to repair by denying customer access to parts or schematics, or simply by designing devices that break if opened.

Companies have pushed back, highlighting product integrity and user safety, but regulatory pressure for change is building.

In March, Europe required manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers, fridges and TV screens to make parts available to professional repairers for at least 10 years after retiring a product.

Officials are now turning to phones and other digital devices.

In July, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to work toward restoring the "right to repair" after a study found "scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions".

An executive order from President Joe Biden is…
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