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It's [Right to Repair] ImportanT

“They just don't like guys like us”, is a statement that we uttered when we began offering electronics repairs in the Metro St. Louis area in 2013. Even though the statement is exaggerative, it certainly felt true at the time. A number of smartphones and tablets quickly became a repair nuisance in our business model; we were expensive compared to the client’s insurance (by no fault of our own), and our turnaround time was long at best. I wondered why replacement LCDs were so expensive and why there were no specification guides similar to the auto industry. Unbeknownst to us, we weren’t alone in these thoughts. This situation was quite huge, actually. So huge that THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS was involved in “Right to Repair” Legislation.

“Right to Repair” is legislation currently steamrolling its way through courtrooms throughout the United States. "It [Right to Repair] requires manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with access to service information, diagnostic tools, and affordable replacement parts" (Missouri.repair.org). This is momentous news for independent repair companies that offer professional electronics services with skills often gained through ample hours of practice, mistakes, and victories.

iPhone Repair - 2014

“The bills are squarely aimed at the ‘authorized repair’ model that creates aftermarket monopolies dominated by the manufacturers themselves. For example, Apple has never authorized an independent company to repair iPhones, even though hundreds of companies do so every day (its authorized repair program is only for Mac computers)” (motherboard.vice.com). We are going to assume Apple is aware of the thousands of repair shops that exist to serve the millions of people with damaged iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks. We make this assumption because of the culture surrounding repair shops that exists and the lack of transparency from manufacturers concerning the specifications of the device and thus reducing the success rate of extending the device's lifespan.

“Manufacturers have had the incentive to monopolize repair since the dawn of the computer era. As early as 1956 IBM was found in contempt of anti-monopoly laws, and was forced to allow a market for used equipment and independent repair in the form of the 1956 Consent Decree. Repair became an openly competitive business, which has been the norm for the computer industry until roughly 1996. Many types of equipment not technically considered "computers" have imitated the recent practices of the computer industry to monopolize repair. These industries usually have internal computer components, such as medical equipment, cell phones, ATMs, TVs, Major appliances, Small Appliances, and more”(Repair.org).

There have been many victories in this battle to provide more balance in the repair industry. Legislation for the “Right to Repair” began in Massachusetts in 2012. In 2013 the Digital Right to Repair Coalition gained the attention of Congress and the White House after filing a Cell Phone Unlocking petition. In 2015, the Library of Congress ruled in favor of the independent repair of tractors, and a variety of manufactured devices. Since 2015, 4 states have introduced the “Right to Repair” into their state legislatures; New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Nebraska.

Right to Repair

We believe that manufacturers should disseminate manufactured specifications to independent repair shops and individuals because it provides the consumer with more options to quickly address their problem and the opportunity to receive the same level of service as the dealer or manufacturer.We have turned down numerous opportunities to repair specialty electronics and unique devices, due to no specs for direct repair and diagnostics of devices without destroying their physical or virtual character. Due to the lack of accessibility to competitively priced parts, I have witnessed Samsung customers ditch there phones for a more repair-friendly device (i.e. iPhones). Due to the limited quantity of quality OEM (original equipment manufactured) replacement parts, devices tend to find themselves a victim of the e-waste cycle. We support legislation to open the information highway so that we can provide better quality parts and service to our clients. Everyone should have the opportunity to compete in any market without threat of extinction due to monopolized resources.

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