Tag Archives: Right to Repair

The Right To Repair Movement Is Just Getting Started

Several months back, Apple refurbisher John Bumstead received a batch of about 20 MacBooks from an e-waste recycler. Bumstead, who routinely refurbishes MacBooks that are more than 10 years old, shouldn’t have had a problem salvaging these computers, the oldest of which were from 2018. But only half of them were fully restorable, The Verge reported.

Five of the MacBooks were “activation locked,” meaning the prior owner had forgotten to wipe the device and nobody else could reactivate it. Another five had broken screens that would lose True Tone unless Bumstead replaced them with expensive new screens from Apple, something that would have eaten up most of the revenue he could earn refurbishing them.

Signed into law last month by Governor Gavin Newsom, the Right to Repair Act guarantees everyone access to parts, tools, and manuals needed to fix their electronic devices – something industry-backed research shows can reduce both waste and carbon emissions but which Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has aggressively lobbied against for years. At a recent White House event, Apple even pledged to honor California’s new law nationwide, The Verge reported.

AppleInsider reported that, according to The New York Times, the iPhone includes code to identify when repair components are bought from Apple – and to intentionally fail if alternatives are used.

Apple used to object to all “right-to-repair” moves to make it allow iPhone owners to go to independent repairers, to the extent that it allegedly got legislation watered down. It then launched its own repair service, and also backed California’s right to repair bill.

9to5Mac reported that Apple may have made a U-turn on the right to repair, but the battle is far from over. The growing practice of parts paring – something which has been increasingly adopted by the iPhone maker – is coming under increasing fire.

According to 9to5Mac, requiring components to be individually linked to the serial numbers of specific devices is proving a major barrier to affordable third-party and DIY repair. The EU is already considering a ban on parts paring, and right-to-repair campaigners are pushing for this in the US too.

The right-to-repair is a movement that argues that consumers ought to have the right to repair their own products – rather than be forced by Apple and other brands for expensive official repairs, or worse, consign devices to a landfill because a repair isn’t economical.

Apple company has spent literally years fighting right-to-repair legislation, spending money to lobby against it at both state and federal levels, either trying to block it altogether or – if it couldn’t manage that – to weaken the legislation as much as possible, 9to5Mac reported.

Apple’s U-turn started with the launch of a Self Service Repair program back in 2021, initially in California, and now nationally. Alongside this, the company stopped opposing right-to-repair laws and instead started actively supporting them.

In my opinion, Right-to-Repair laws are good things. It forces large companies to accept state laws that support the Right-to-Repair movement. It keeps electronics out of landfills, and it can inspire people to do some DIY on their computers and devices.

California Right To Repair Signed Into Law

IFixit wrote: Today (October 10) marks a monumental step forward in the Right to Repair movement. We’re elated to announce that Governor Gavin Newsom has officially signed the California Right to Repair Act, SB 244, into law. This groundbreaking legislation passed the legislature almost unanimously last month.

It has been championed by state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and is cosponsored by iFixit, along with our colleagues in the more-fixable-stuff fight. CALPRIG (the California Public Interest Research Group), and Californians Against Waste.

“This is a victory for consumers and the planet, and it just makes sense,” said Jenn Engstron, state director of CALPRIG. “Right now, we mine the planet’s precious minerals, use them to make amazing phones and other electronics, ship these products across the world, and then toss them away after just a few years’ use. What a waste. We should make stuff that lasts and be able to fix our stuff when it breaks, and now thanks to years of advocacy, Californian’s will finally be able to, with the Right to Repair.”

The tech revolution started here in California, IFixit wrote, so it’s appropriate that we’re working to fix the problems of Big Tech here, too. With access to original parts, tools, and documentation, independent repair shops will be able to compete again. And Californians across the state – accounting for 1 out of every 8 Americans – will be able to fix things however they see fit.

With California’s new law, the Golden State joins Minnesota and New York, representing nearly 20% of the US population, in guaranteeing people more control over their electronic devices. The bill goes above and beyond those laws, mandating manufacturers to keep repair materials available for up to seven years, ensuring the longevity of products and reducing electronic waste.

Covered products: all electronic and appliance products that cost $50 or more sold in California after July 1, 2021 (everything in Section 9801 of the Business and Professions code, which was just updated this session in another bill, SB 814)

Effective date: July 1, 2024

Difference from other states: includes 3 years of parts, tools, and documentation support for products that cost $50-$99.99; 7 years for products $100+

Exemptions: game consoles, alarm systems, agricultural and forestry equipment

The Verge reported California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed SB 244, or the Right to Repair Act, into law, making it easier for owners to repair devices themselves or to take them to independent repair shops. Because California is one of the world’s largest economies, this iFixit-cosponsored bill may make it easier for people all over the US to repair their devices.

According to The Verge, California is home to a number of device makers, most notably Apple, which came out in support of the bill after initially trying to stall it. As a practical matter, the California law may benefit consumers in places without such laws. For instance, Google, also headquartered in California, recently confirmed that the Pixel 8 series will get seven years of spare parts – the same number the California bill mandates.

As a Californian, I think the Right to Repair law is going to significantly help people who need to fix, swap out parts, or otherwise tinker with their devices. My hope is that this will cause the repair shops (some of which have closed) to start back up again.

John Deere Invests In Self-Driving Tractors And Smart Crop Sprayers

John Deere is rolling out self-driving tractors that can plow fields by themselves, and sprayers that distinguish weeds from crops. Deere, which helped make satellite-guided tractors ubiquitous in the U.S. Farm Belt over the past 20 years, is investing billions of dollars to develop smarter machines that the company said will make farming faster and more efficient than it ever could be with just farmers behind the wheel, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Wall Street Journal, by the end of the decade, John May, Deere’s chief executive projects that 10% of Deere’s annual revenue will come from fees for using software.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that while farmers have said they are open to test-driving new technology, many are struggling with the cost of necessities including fertilizer and fuel, which have surged in price over the past year.

John Deere generated $44 billion in sales in 2021, and sells around 60% of the high-horsepower tractors used in the U.S. and Canada. Deere has been guiding farmers toward a bigger leap into technology for almost 20 years, starting with an autopilot system on tractors and harvesters that is now a standard feature on nearly all of Deere’s large farm machinery.

That said, not all farmers appear to be enthused about John Deere’s technological choices.

Walter Schweitzer, a farmer new Geyser, Montana, who also serves as president of the Montana Farmers Union, said he worried that further linking farm equipment to software managed by Deere could give the equipment company greater influence over farmers’ operations, while collecting data to benefit Deere’s own technology development.

According to The Wall Street Journal, The Montana Farmers Union has joined other farm groups in pushing Deere to broaden access to the software and tools to repair and work on Deere equipment, so independent repair shops and farmers themselves could do more fixes.

In August of 2022, Gizmodo reported that a hacker named Sick Codes had demonstrated a way to jail-break John Deere tractors, which could allow farmers the opportunity to self-repair their equipment. According to Gizmodo, as farming and agriculture continue to automate, John Deere has found a sneaky digitally gate keep diagnosis of faulty tractor parts to ensure that farmers are forced to turn to the company’s own repair services.

In July of 2021, the U.S Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. This, essentially, puts the “right to repair” in place.

To me, it sounds like the farmers who are using John Deere’s equipment have the “right to repair” it themselves, without relying on John Deere to do that for them. Personally, I don’t think people who need to use specific equipment to do their jobs should have to be burdened with wondering what a big company will do with the data it collects from them.

FTC Voted to Ramp Up Enforcement Against Illegal Repair Restrictions

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. This decision essentially puts the “right to repair” in place.

The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the policy statement during an open Commission meeting that was live streamed to its website.

“These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said during an open Commission meeting. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”

In a policy statement, the Commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The FTC also urged the public to submit complaints of violations of the Magunson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a special service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.

The FTC’s statements come days after the White House endorsed similar rules in an executive order on economic competition. That part of the executive order specifically states that the FTC will exercise rulemaking authority regarding several areas, including “unfair anticompetition and surveillance practices on third-party repair or self-repair of items, as imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

That part refers to farmers who use John Deere tractors, and who have sued for the right to repair their own tractors. Currently, some farmers face legal repercussions when they try to fix their machinery themselves.

The FTC could choose to use its new policy to prevent companies like Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google from working to put a stop to laws that would require them to provide genuine repair parts and device schematics to independent repair shops.