Right-To-Repair: What Does It Mean for Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)?

#TechTipTuesday

What does Right-To-Repair mean, and why are we suddenly talking about it? 

Right-To-Repair affects just about every industry in different ways – devices like refrigerators, ventilators, smartphones, and tractors – while all have entirely different functions, all share a commonality: they all have increasingly high tech features. Cool, right? Yes, until they break.

Right-To-Repair refers to the ability of an owner or consumer to repair their own device or to choose an independent repair service. 

As it currently stands, there are strict rules created by device manufacturers that limit consumer’s ability to either make their own repairs or choose where to get repairs when a device breaks. Manufacturers have many consumers at a stalemate of sorts- withholding information, parts, and tools needed to repair particular devices, forcing consumers to use the manufacturer for all repairs. Additionally, many device warranties have strict bans on third-party device repairs. It has many consumers feeling like their hands are tied. 

The topic is hot right now and here’s why: President Biden signed an executive order in July. The executive order requires federal agencies to prioritize consumers’ “Right-To-Repair” on their own devices, meaning they can do it themselves or choose an independent service to complete the repairs. The Federal Trade Commission followed suit in prioritizing the issue, along with twenty-five other states across the United States that are considering enacting their own form of Right-To-Repair laws.

While it may, at first glance,  seem nothing more than an annoyance that manufacturers possess the power to force repairs to be made only through them, let’s provide some larger perspective on the topic.

Here’s Why Right-To-Repair Really Matters

The issue surrounding the Right-To-Repair rules often affects people’s livelihood, as is the case with farming. Since most tractors today are connected to the internet, repairs must be done by major manufacturers such as John Deere. Repair calls can often cost hundreds of dollars, and wait times are unreasonably long. When a needed repair falls within a critical harvesting season, the Right-To-Repair rules are quite literally affecting people’s livelihoods. Biden’s proposed changes to these rules will allow farmers to truly control the success of their livelihood by completing their own repairs or finding an independent repair business, thereby controlling the timelines on those repairs. The stakes behind these changes are high, with real lives and businesses on the line.

But it’s not just farmers – delays to medical device repairs affect patient treatment and the ability to save lives in some cases. When repairs are delayed, care is also delayed and compromised.

Environmental Benefits

For other industries, it contributes to unnecessary e-waste. Without proper access to the parts to repair existing devices and ridiculously long wait times from manufacturers, individuals in many industries are forced to buy new devices rather than wait for repairs. It’s no secret that the e-waste problem is a real and growing issue in the U.S. and globally, with no long-term solution in sight. Right-To-Repair laws can help alleviate the problem. 

According to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, the United States tosses over 416,000 cell phones and 142,000 computers every day. 

With Right-To-Repair implemented, we’d expect this number to decline once users are given legitimate paths to repair screens and replace batteries. Current repair shops struggle to repair modern smartphones due to intentionally complicated disassembly processes and restricted access to original equipment manufacturer parts. 

What will these changes mean for SMBs?

While the implications of the Right-To-Repair rules are far-reaching, the effects on SMBs are simple: Right-To-Repair will give you more control over your own devices. 

Repairs can be nearly impossible for many proprietary devices SMBs use every day. It’s genuinely ambiguous even if you own your equipment in many cases. If you owned a particular device, shouldn’t you be able to repair it instead of having to replace it entirely or send it off to the manufacturer for them to dictate its future?  

Is your business wondering how this may affect your industry? Do you have questions about devices that need repairs? Let’s chat. Get in touch with PK Tech here.

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