I’m going to look at that little sticker on the back or bottom of just about every piece of electrical kit you have, PS4, Xbox, Switch, TV, PVR recorder….”Warranty Void if removed”. What’s the deal with that? Do we believe the manufacturer is “void of responsibility” if that sticker is removed?
Right to Repair History
In the US currently, there is a lot of interest in Right to Repair, and the movement is growing. 18 States so far have introduced Fair repair bills, based on the 2012 Automotive Right to Repair Law, which was passed in Massachusetts and led to a national agreement with the Automobile industry (PDF link). The electronics industry have the same wishes, digital electronics in Automobiles have very little difference to consumer electronics, suffer the same problems, and need access to the same type of repair platforms. In essence the rules for repair should be the same across the board.
Certain Manufacturers hold the consumer hostage over their products, via such practices as (but not limited ):
- Software lockouts (Preventing access to updating especially pertinent after the Manufacturer has stopped support)
- Sim Locks
- DMCA (Software protection)
- Soldered Ram
- Soldered Hard Drives
- Glued Batteries
- No access to spare parts
Manufacturers started to fight back against the right to repair movement, stating that allowing consumers right to repair could let users access trade secrets and IP, such as schematics and the ability to reverse engineer the devices. Also, stated was the fear that devices could be harmed by unauthorized repairs.
With this increased fight back from manufacturers, the Repair Association led the growing right to repair movement, now supported by the farming industry as well (who faced the same issue of repairing farming equipment outside of authorized repair services).
FTC gets bossy
In April 2018 the FTC issued a statement stating that they had sent warning letters to six major companies that market and sell Automobiles, Cellular devices, and Video Game systems for violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. These companies are Hyundai, Asus, HTC, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. They specified that informing customers that the stickers on their devices which forbid the device being opened, use third-party repair services or use third-party replacement parts is a “deceptive practice” and can only be valid if the manufacturer provides a free warranty service, or replacement parts. In light of this both Sony and Nintendo updated their warranty statements.
Right to Repair in the EU
On the 9th June 2017 the European Parliament put in a motion for a European resolution on longer lifetime for products: benefits for consumers and companies. This is to legally allow any EU citizen the right to repair their products anywhere without the risk of losing the manufacturer warranty. The motion encourages manufacturers to build “repair ability” into their products. This has a number of advantages, not only to the consumer that can replace a battery that is not glued or soldered into place, or an LED that once broken cannot be replaced, but many of these devices once they stop working are thrown out, the consumer having to purchase a new device, repairing this device instead of binning it reduces the amount of E-waste. E-waste is a huge, growing problem, www.thebalancesmb.com published an article on the state of electronic waste. Currently only 15-20% of all e-waste is recycled, worldwide, according to a BBC program, 20-50 million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide. Cutting this waste which is expected to grow worldwide by 8% a year, is a huge global environmental concern, and the right to repair movement, worldwide, is a significant step towards reducing this destruction of our environment.
Companies promoting Right To Repair
There are a number of companies/organizations and websites fighting the manufacturers to push through the consumers right to repair the products they own. With the cases of phones like the iPhone 6 having software that disabled phones after it detected unauthorized repairs (that is, not sent/taken to an Apple store for repair), Mac books with the butterfly keyboards that are failing but Apple are not admitting there is a problem, there is a growing consumer visibility that something is wrong and the US currently has the most focus on social media. The Repair Association is one of a number of organizations leading the fight, it’s website has a number of resources, for both consumers and companies interested in right to repair. Their consumer guide page has a number of tips and a knowledge share form which is used to increase the scope of all devices and the repair policies attached.
ifixit.com are the leading website in parts/tools and videos/content aimed at teardowns and step by step repair procedures. Their motto is “The free guide for everything, written by everyone” and at time of writing have 41,233 manuals, 127,458 solutions covering 11,129 phones, laptops, video game systems among others. They take apart a wide variety of devices, showing each step with pictures and the corresponding tool needed in the step, at the end they give a repairabilty score (1 being the hardest, 10 easiest). The repair guides are a mix from ifixit and users, again, showing step by step instructions, difficulty score, and time required to fix. It’s an incredibly detailed and comprehensive website. They offer certifications for repair technicians to gain a recognized award, so that customers can feel confident in the technicians ability.
There are a number of repair shops/individuals on YouTube that vocal on the movement, Louis Rossman is a technician repairing Apple products in NYC, he shows live board repairs of mac products and is a big voice online in the right to repair movement but mainly on the shady practices of Apple, he does have some strong views, so be warned if you are easily offended. You can also head over to iPad Rehab and Jessa Jones and see her repairing Apple products, listen to her speak on the right to repair bill although she’s not as sweary as Louis.
Even with the big companies wanting the devices YOU own not to be opened, they are fighting a loosing battle. With the Right to Repair movement worldwide gathering speed, manufacturers are falling over themselves trying to fight against these measures. With the added benefit of protecting the environment from millions of tons of landfill, there are some big organizations like Greenpeace putting their weight into the matter.
The Right to Repair movement believe manufacturers advertised fears, that is: IP infringement, having to fix repairs from bad repairs, losing control of their quality among others are unfounded, and really part of a fear spreading campaign. This fear is started with that “Warranty Void if Removed” sticker. If you remove it, then your hard-earned cash could be lost! If you remove it, does that really absolve the manufacturer from issues that turn up in 1000s of devices? It’s a stretch, and a technique for shady business practices, non-transparency, making money over the customer experience. Obviously, if the device is opened and the insides destroyed, that’s another case, but opening a device to change a battery? Opening a device to upgrade a hard drive, upgrade memory? Why are these items, that are easily swappable, glued or soldered onto a board? Only one reason, to force you into buying a new device when one component fails. And that’s unacceptable.
Links for issues relating to Right to Repair: