Fight to Repair Daily: August 12, 2022

Five Kindle Modes losing the ability to buy books, Amazons blames cybersecurity

The idea of sunsetting devices and support for them is picking up pace and has long been a problem for people who buy tech. Spending hundreds – or thousands – on devices comes with an implicit agreement that you’ll be able to use the device for the total length of its useful life without the manufacturer withdrawing support.

And yet, that premise is a problem for manufacturers, who rely on us upgrading our phones and tablets in order to continue to make money. So it’s little wonder that they decide to pull back on support for older devices.

The Kindle withdrawal is, in part, down to security. Last year Amazon said it was only offering security updates for devices four years after their device was last available for purchase from their website. That’s due to the prohibitive cost of being able to maintain decent security on devices and the potential reputational risk of having thousands, if not millions, of unsecured devices out there in the wild that bear the Amazon brand name. If they were hacked, there could be huge ramifications. (Cybernews)

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🇪🇺 Repair and EU policy: what’s happening in 2022?

Empowering Consumers Proposal: This proposal, unveiled in the Circular Economy Package on 30 March, aims to tackle greenwashing by obliging manufacturers to provide consumers with more reliable information at the point of sale. Beyond this, the proposal also targets the problem of planned (or premature) obsolescence, a major hindrance to the durability of our goods. With the problems of lack of information and obsolescence being two of the key barriers in securing the right to repair, this proposal is a good first step.

Sustainable Products: Although we expected to see a proposal from the Commission on consumer legislation on repair in July, we instead must hold our breath until November, when we hear the proposal is now set to be released. We proposed some additional options to ensure that the repair legislation can be as horizontal and far-reaching as possible. One such suggestion included banning a wide range of techniques limiting repair beyond the manufacturing networks, like contracts, use of adhesives, and part pairing. Lack of access to repair manuals, or lack of availability of spare parts also need to be legislated against. We pointed to national policy examples like the repair score in France or tax breaks on repairs in Austria and Germany as inspiration for EU level policies that will lead to easier repairs.

How will India’s ban on inexpensive Chinese smartphones play out?

India wants no Chinese contenders in the lower-end segment of its smartphone market. It plans to bar them from selling handsets priced under 12,000 rupees ($150), Bloomberg reported on August 8th.

However, it is unclear yet if this will be done officially or unofficially. The government hopes that, with lesser competition, domestic brands like Micromax, Lava, Karbonn, and others, can be revived, the report suggested. Its plan also coincides with the likely launch of a 5G phone (priced Rs9,000-Rs12,000) by Jio, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.

For one, the variety in the market would decline and consumers will have to settle for lower specs or higher prices—or both. Nationalism and jingoism aside, Indians have been lapping up Chinese handsets. Barring south Korea’s Samsung, all of India’s top five smartphone five brands are Chinese. (Quartz India)

🖨️ Bricked Epson printers make a strong case for user repairability

Epson gained some scrutiny on Twitter in recent weeks after the company disabled a printer that was otherwise working fine, leading to accusations of planned obsolescence. Epson knows its printers will stop working without simple maintenance at a predictable point in the future, and it knows that it won’t be cost-effective for many owners to send their home printers in for service. So why not build them to be user serviceable in the first place?

In a recently updated support document, Epson offers several solutions to resolve the problem. These include sending the printer into Epson to replace the ink pads or having a local certified technician do it. Previously (via Wayback Machine), just before the issue gained notoriety, Epson conceded that:

“repair may not be a good investment for lower cost printers because the printer’s other components also may be near the end of usable life.”

It then added that “most consumers who are out of warranty elect to replace a lower-cost printer when they receive an end of life service message.“ Now, Epson suggests the feel-good option of sending the bricked unit in for recycling. (The Verge)

🇮🇳 Mr Fixit

Over the years, countries across the globe have been working on the “right to repair” legislation to enable consumers to fix their products independently. Keeping abreast with the current trend, India too is seeking to come out with a “Right to Repair” legislation with the aim of cutting down restrictive practices introduced by some manufacturers.

Though the “right to repair” is not recognized as a statutory right in India, certain judicial pronouncements have tacitly recognised the right. For instance, in Shamsher Kataria vs Honda Siel Cars India Ltd (2017), the Competition Commission of India ruled that restricting and denying access of automobile spare parts to independent automobile repairers by way of end-user license agreement was anti-competitive. Also, the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, recognises that monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer’s “right to choose”, thereby giving partial acknowledgment to the right to repair. (IndiaLegalLive)