The right to repair: a movement growing stronger

We live in a technology driven society where almost everyone owns electronic products. But it seems like these are becoming harder to repair. Are big tech companies making their products irreparable, and are we as consumers being pushed towards buying new devices when they’re damaged? These questions and many more are being raised, and they all come together in the Right to Repair movement. Do we need a universal right to repair, and who is going to make that happen?

The right to repair movement is gaining popularity. Users are getting tired of buying a new smartphone every 2 years for instance. It would cost consumers less if they would be able to repair their products, plus it would be way better for the planet. The movement originally started in the US. For one, there’s a problem with agricultural vehicles there. American farmers are losing their right to repair and modify their John Deere tractors.

In Europe, we’re also striving for change. Chloé Mikolajczak is an activist based in Brussels and coordinates the Right to Repair Europe campaign. ‘There are already several policies that allow regulation on a European level, and these we are trying to influence. But they are not doing enough. We want products to be reparable by design and for repairs to become mainstream, affordable and accessible.’

‘You don’t necessarily want your great aunt of 105 to repair her toaster’

Last year, the first ever European repair requirements came into force. It was kind of presented as an effort of listening to right to repair demands, but it is not, says Chloé: ‘The measures only apply to four categories of products: washing machines, dishwashers, tv’s and fridges. They don’t relate to to phones, tablets, laptops. The requirements also only apply to professional repairers. It’s not going to change anything for people like you and I.’ The use of software to generate planned obsolescence and the issue of price were also not tackled. Right To Repair Europe is trying to address all of these limits so that future repair regulations are more universal.

Chloé doesn’t think that the day the law is going to change on the topic of repair, everyone will start repairing their electronic products. That is not their intention either: ‘We’re not striving for everyone to repair their products. If you have a great aunt who is 105 years old, you don’t necessarily want her to repair her toaster. But at least she will have the choice, and that’s what we’re pushing for.’

Would you like to know more on the topic of the right to repair? Whatch the documentary below:

Text and video: Lieselot Lambinet
Photo: pixabay