The debate regarding whether a user has the right to repair a device owned by him has been there for a while now, it originated in the USA when Massachusetts passed the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, 2012. The ones on the side that there should be a right to repair argue that Once a customer has paid for a device/ product, the manufacturer shouldn’t be dictating how you use it, on the other hand, the companies including giants like Apple and Tesla have been defending themselves by claiming proprietary rights, technology rights design rights, intellectual property, and patent protections and the like, so that they can continue offering their repair services which are often at a steep price.
Placing an end to this debate, the Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India on Thursday 14/07/2021 announced that it has set up a committee chaired by Nidhi Khare, an additional secretary, to develop a framework for ‘Right to Repair. In the first meeting that happened on 13/07/2022, this committee identified the following sectors in which Right to Repair will be implemented which are farming equipment, mobile phones/ tablets, consumer durables, and automobiles/automobile equipment.
According to the ‘Right to Repair’ concept, customers must own a product completely after purchase. “…consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at a reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs”
In this article, we will try to explain how this Right to Repair would work, and what could be its implications?
What is Right to Repair?
The Right to repair as the name suggests is a law/regulation that would give a right to the consumers/users to repair a device /good that he has purchased from a Company himself/herself. It gives the user/consumer access to hardware and software tools from the respective company.
The jurisprudence behind the Right to Repair is that the consumer can continue using a product/device that he has bought for money for its shelf life without incurring significant costs and the company shouldn’t be forcing the consumer to get it repaired only from it directly or indirectly, but not making the spares available in the market.
As per the Union Government statement this legislation is aimed to empower consumers and product buyers, developing a sustainable consumption of products and reduction of e-waste.
As per the statement issued by the Centre “Tech companies should provide complete knowledge and access to manuals, schematics, and software updates and to which the software license shouldn’t limit the transparency of the product in sale. The parts and tools to service devices, including diagnostic tools, should be made available to third parties, including individuals so that the product can be repaired if there are minor glitches.”
The right to repair law will prescribe periods for which a company/manufacturer would be responsible for providing affordable options to consumers for repairing their devices.
Implications of Right to Repair in India
- Customers will be able to purchase their own set of tools to enable them to fix their devices/gadgets.
- Company will also give access to required software which the customer needs for repairing the gadget for a prescribed time
- Company will provide a clearly instructed manual that would aid users/consumers to repair the devices/gadgets.
- Users will have the choice of either repairing the gadget/device themselves or to go the Company repair center.
- Gadgets lifetime will increase
- Repairs would be affordable
- Reduced e-waste
- Organised refurbishing will be possible
- Planned obsolescence of devices/ gadgets will end
Position in Other Countries
European Union adopted its Right to Repair legislation in 2019, giving access to requisite tools to customers for repairing digital products, particularly consumer appliances. The EU is planning to expand the scope of the legislation to cover other products
France has issued a repairability index/ score in 2021, a score ranging from 0 to 10/10 that is given over the ease of repair of a particular product; French law makes it mandatory for the manufacturers to display the index near the point of sale and manufacturer is also obliged to make the index available to anyone who requests it.
The index assesses 5 criteria:
- Availability of spare parts
- Price of spare parts
- Product-specific aspects
The repairability index needs to be self-computed by the Manufacturer by entering all the parameters in a spreadsheet provided by the French Ministry of Environment
The US has also passed its Digital Fair Repair Act in its New York state under which manufacturers are obliged to offer patented tools and remove software restrictions and let users/consumers repair the devices/ gadgets that they purchased.
How this Could Affect Companies?
Right to Repair is going to severely impact the internal product designs, and intellectual properties owned by the company in respect of its products. At the moment these are heavily guarded and repairs are done only at the company’s repair facility, however, now the companies will have to provide repair guides, spare repair tools, and software needed to the customer which may contain their protected IPs. The repair segment will be open for not only the customers but third party players which are already providing repair services underground but now they would be able to do this in a full-fledged manner.
This could create problems as the companies while repairing had a quality check, on the repairing activity, spares used, and the skill set of the repairer. However when this will be done by customers and third-party repairers, there are chances that the repairs are not done appropriately and the device malfunctions or gets damaged, therefore the Companies may need to amend their warranty policies. The warranty and customer policies offered right now were drafted considering repairs done at their service centres and not elsewhere.