The right to repair your vehicle and technology could be hanging in the balance.
What’s it all about?
According to Consumer Reports, right to repair legislation is being introduced in no less than 14 states, and President Biden has recently ordered the FTC to introduce new right to repair regulations. People are asking what is this all about, and how does it affect me?
To bring it all down to the simplest of explanations, the more embedded technology becomes in the products we use, the more difficult it becomes to repair. In many cases, proprietary software tools are needed to analyze data and troubleshoot the problem, thus limiting who can repair an item.
If manufacturers of products are unwilling to make the tools available to product owners and independent repair shops, the consumer’s choices become severely limited. With a lack of competition, there comes higher prices and lower quality. Items potentially impacted include vehicles, computers, phones, generators, agricultural equipment, and anything you can think of manufactured by someone else that has parts that breakdown.
The main issue for fleet owners and operators is that without right to repair laws, OBD port diagnostic data may only be made available to manufacturers and dealerships, and not to independent repair shops like Firestone, Travel Centers, and Goodyear repair centers. With right to repair laws enacted, fleet operators will have competitive options for servicing their vehicles, and even have the option of servicing vehicles themselves. Without such laws, one might be forced to go back to the dealership for some or all repairs regardless of cost, convenience, location, or quality.
6 arguments for and 6 against your right to repair.
- User safety – today’s technology may contain combustible materials and sharp metal parts that can cause injury. If the device owner is hurt trying to repair the device, it can impact the manufacturer’s image as their product is seen as a hazard.
- Shrinking Tech – Modern tech products are smaller and often require special tools not readily available or requiring licensing to use.
- Efficiency – “Modern tech products are designed to be the most efficient they can be in their set form factor… Making it more easily repairable would require you to hinder its efficiency from accommodating modulation and repairability.”
- Competition – this one comes down to planned obsolescence – “it’s not a viable long-term business strategy to make your products more repairable and long-lasting.”
- Demand and Supply – Without equilibrium “the competition in the market will reduce and make things worse for consumers as they’ll be forced to buy products from a select few businesses that managed to survive—depriving them of their freedom of choice. Ultimately, this game of dominos ends up hurting the consumer.”
- No Incentive to Innovate – “The reason OEMs constantly push for new bleeding-edge tech is because they have a clear advantage to do so. In a world where people don’t upgrade their gadgets frequently and are used to repairing them, innovation will be left as an afterthought instead of being a priority.”
Our 6 arguments for your right to repair to counter the 6 against listed above:
- User Safety – Old school vehicles, say a 2010 Ford F150, has a fuel tank full of combustible material, sharp plastic and metal edges everywhere, and even hot pipes that can burn you if you touch them, but no one claims they are a hazard for a back yard mechanic to work on.
- Shrinking Tech – Make the special tools available! Make the replacement parts and troubleshooting software available too. Manufacturers should want their products to be field repairable. The more easily a consumer can get a product back in service the more popular and successful that product will be.
- Efficiency – So what if the form factor is smaller? If a field tech can troubleshoot to a defective module and replace it, efficiency has not been impacted. It all comes down to making the tools, software, and replacement parts available.
- Competition – It is better for the consumer and for the environment to make long lasting products that can be easily repaired by the consumer or independent service technicians. There is a small percentage of the population ready to stand in line for whatever new technology comes out, but the rest of us want to know what we buy today has a reasonable service life.
- Demand and Supply – There will always be new innovators with new innovations. Manufacturers should focus on making products better, products that do something the competition does not do and that consumers really need. That will increase competition in the marketplace rather than decrease it limiting consumer choice.
- Incentive to Innovate – There is always enough incentive for manufacturers to consider taking on the risk and costs of R&D. Consumers will upgrade their gadgets when manufacturers offer gadgets that do more and do it better.
Summing it all up…
If we learned nothing else from the recent years of post-pandemic economic upheaval, we should have learned that anything manufactured in a monopolized industry without serious competition (prime example semiconductors) becomes unavailable and prices skyrocket when those manufacturers experience a problem producing or repairing their products. Those problems then trickle down to other industries that use those products to produce their own products (prime example vehicles).
Consumers want products that are built to last and are easily maintained and repaired by whomever they choose. The right to repair a product simply should not be monopolized by manufacturers.