The right to repair is a legal concept that allows you and other third-party service providers to repair and modify your devices. Many manufacturers are attempting to take this right away from consumers and some have already done so by restricting the availability of parts and hardware used in the manufacture, so the consumers are forced to return the device to have it repaired. This of course gives them the power to charge an arbitrary sum of money for the service as they are the sole provider. It also forces the customer to ship the device to the manufacturer’s service outlets which may be expensive if there is none in their area. But most importantly, it takes a fundamental freedom of ownership of the device from the user. The user is not allowed to modify or repair a device they purchased or take it to a third-party provider such as computer repairs Smithfield. This has been met with heavy criticism although many companies still lobby governments and exercise they corporate power to take away your right to repair your own devices.
Although this article will focus on digital devices and computers, this is also applicable to vehicles, appliances and basically any hardware that is commercially available. Although the issue began in the 1950s relating to computers, it gained traction as auto manufacturers began to impose similar restrictions on vehicle repair. Today, companies like Tesla and John Deere impose software locks on their vehicles which force owners to visit an authorised repair centre or risk having their vehicle disabled via software. This heavily impacts farmers who rely on John Deere tractors and farming equipment for their livelihood and may not have the time or the resources to have it repaired by an authorised service centre, especially if there are none in the area.
One of the primary issues with the lack of right to repair is that it essentially bars small electronics stores from participating in the economy via repair services. Many small businesses can repair devices faster and at a much lower cost than authorised service centres as they are available almost anywhere and are open to operating in unconventional hours or devices. Moreover, with access to the exact hardware in the devices, they can perform small repairs for small fees. However, with manufacturers like Apple preventing their suppliers from selling to third parties, a device with an issue in a small component in its motherboard would need the entire board replaced as the component is no longer sold separately. This allows manufacturers to restrict the right to repair without legally banning it. Therefore, advocates for the right to repair propose legally enforcing the right to repair by preventing manufacturers from forcing their suppliers to agree to exclusivity arrangements as well as preventing them from software-locking the functionality of the device if it detects third party hardware.
Many see this infringement of the right to repair as an effort to move from companies selling devices to companies selling the right to use the devices, similar to the software as a service model.