Fight to Repair Daily: Monday, September 26, 2022

Big Tech’s superficial support is undermining the right-to-repair movement

Apple kicked off the recent spat of manufacturer repair initiatives in the last year. It was a pleasant surprise from a company that has historically been downright adversarial to the right to repair. Samsung and Google quickly followed suit by making official OEM parts available for sale.

That’s all well and good, but both programs are far from perfect. Samsung’s repair program, for example, inflates the cost of a battery replacement by gluing the screen to the battery itself, whereas Apple’s repair program doesn’t offer replacement ports and connectors, which are particularly prone to failure. In Apple’s case, you can see this with the requirement of a software activation for a rear glass cover, despite the iPhone 14 being their most repairable device in years. Cory Doctorow, author and Special Advisor at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, describes another mechanism used by Apple to accomplish this goal.

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“Apple does this bizarre thing where they engrave tiny logos on parts in assembly, inside the device. If you send a phone overseas to be stripped down, then shipped back to the U.S. as refurbished parts, they can be blocked at the border due to trademark tarnishment. This is because it has an Apple trademark on it that wouldn’t be obvious to a user without a jeweler’s loupe, and the part might not be as robust as a brand-new one. Apple routinely asks customs authorities to block reimportation of actual Apple parts made in Apple factories.”

There remain so many hurdles to right to repair that it can be easy to get pessimistic. Intense profit incentives and a quagmire of legalities seem stacked to erode consumer rights and leave a whole lot of toxic chemicals in an e-waste wake. Alternative modes of operating are gaining in visibility, but they require grassroots support to spread. (Digital Trends)

My car’s infotainment screen broke — and it highlights a big issue with modern cars

My car’s screen was sent off just under four weeks ago, and adjusting to the lack of a screen has been a challenge, to say the least. Partly because of the giant hole in the middle of my car, but also because of the features that needed the screen to operate. Had I been driving a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y, the loss of the center display would have been a full-blown catastrophe. That’s because neither car has a driver information screen behind the wheel, instead pushing all that information into the center console.

Some of those features are pretty obvious. I can’t use my cameras or Android Auto, for example, because there’s no screen for those things to be seen. Likewise, while my car has physical buttons for things like climate control, fine-tuning the system now involves a heavy dose of guesswork. While my problems are incredibly minor and barely count as problems, it is indicative of a much bigger issue in the car world. The fact that hi-tech solutions, while super-convenient, are much more difficult to fix when things go wrong.

One of the many touted benefits of electric cars is that they require less maintenance, and thus cost you less in the long term. A lot of people do forget that the parts that do go wrong are inevitably more expensive to repair or replace. Much like the Leaf’s infotainment screen. Nissan told me that, after taxes and labor, a replacement infotainment screen would normally set me back somewhere in the region of £3,500 ($3,824). Had I not spent £350/$382 on an extended warranty, I’d have to choose between paying up or living without an infotainment system. (tomsguide)

The Antitrust Shooting War Has Started

First, let’s start with the good, which is, from my perspective, the resurrection of dormant antitrust law. The agencies had 14 mergers blocked or abandoned in the last year, in important areas such as refrigerated shipping, hospitals, semiconductors, retail, and the defense sector. In some, like aerospace, these merger challenges reshaped an entire landscape. Still, blocked mergers, while they stop things from getting worse, only indirectly address the broader concentration crisis.

There’s a lot more than mergers. This summer, the Federal Trade Commission announced three different cases around firms trying to make it harder to repair their products, fruits of advocacy by the ‘right-to-repair’ movement. None of them targeted Apple, but Apple, like other big firms such as Microsoft, has begun to change the design of its products in response to this changing legal environment.

The bad is pretty simple. Losses. In a highly concentrated economy, losing merger challenges simply shouldn’t happen. UnitedHealth Group, for instance, has revenue of more than $200 billion a year. It dominates doctor’s practices, health insurance, and pharmacy benefits management. UHG is the textbook symbol of a consolidated and bloated health care system, and was seeking to buy the key payments network in health care that controls nearly all financial data in the industry, run by Change Health. The UHG-Change transaction was a comically unlawful merger, and yet the Antitrust Division just lost in its court challenge. (BIG by Matt Stroller)

Why Wyoming Farmers Are Buying Old Tractors Instead of New Ones

Tractors have become so technologically advanced, it’s impossible for farmers and ranchers to fix them, say “right-to-repair” advocates. Some farmers are lobbying their state legislatures for right-to-repair laws. Others are turning to the Eastern European gray market to snag their own repair software. That’s because manufacturers have a monopoly on repair software in the U.S., advocates argue.

One Casper-area farmer said he’s found a simpler solution: Use old tractors.

“I’m on my way out to the hay field for the harvest right now, and the tractor I’m driving is 44 years old,” Bill Kossert said during a telephone interview Friday. “It still runs great, and it’s got everything I need, including air conditioning in the cab.”

The problem is, tractor manufacturers have a monopoly on their diagnostics software, he said. The software is usually available only to dealers’ repair shops, which aren’t allowed to share it with customers. So, even a minor problem can shut a tractor down and leave a farmer facing huge bills. Instead of fixing it themselves, they have no choice to use dealer-authorized repair personnel, which not only can be costly but could take days or even weeks.

“When you’re in the middle of a harvest and your tractor stops working because of an electronic problem, you’re sitting there with a 500,000-pound paperweight, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Schweitzer said.

That’s exactly what Schweitzer said happened to him couple of years ago during the middle of a hay harvest. His newer-model main tractor started randomly shutting down. (Cowboy State Daily)

DePaul & Michigan law professors weigh in on right to repair

The CAR Coalition has released two research papers written by law professors that support the passage of federal legislation to support making OEM repair procedures and parts more accessible to give consumers the right to repair in both the collision and mechanical repair industries. However, the research shies away from efforts by insurers, often as a cost savings measure, to block reimbursements for repairs made using those procedures.

Each of the white paper authors tackles one of the bills — the REPAIR Act by Aaron Perzanowski, an author and University of Michigan law professor, and the SMART Act by Joshua D. Sarnoff, a law professor at DePaul University College of Law. Both said the compensation they received from the coalition didn’t sway the opinions they expressed and the research used in their papers.

Perzanowski states in his paper that federal law “has reflected a policy favoring equal access to repair information” for more than 30 years but, during that time, manufacturers have developed “techniques” to restrict repair information and access to tools to consumers and independent repairers.

Sarnoff’s paper is an update to a 2017 paper he wrote for a previous coalition on the right of repair… He argues in his paper that “for more than 60 years, the alternative collision parts industry has been offering quality alternative parts to consumers. Typically, these ‘aftermarket’ parts have been up to 50% less expensive than OEM parts, and the existence of that competition in the parts market has also induced OEMs to lower the costs of OEM parts to consumers by about 8%.”

(Repair Driven News)

Global Overview of Right to Repair: An Indian Perspective

This article comprehensively discusses everything about the right to repair. This right provides consumers freedom to repair and fix devices according to their own choices. It also provides a detailed analysis of the current status of the right to repair movement in India and across the world.

In light of the above discussion, it can be concluded that the right to repair is important for both the user and the environment. Even if a manufacturer does not benefit as much as the consumer, it can still develop newer and better products while still allowing users to repair existing ones. Technology advancements and reparability are not always contradictory. Moving toward a world where technology is not constantly discarded due to a single malfunctioning part would assist in reducing e-waste and environmental problems while also giving consumers choice over the things they buy and the ability to fix such devices.

Currently, there is no regulation regarding the right to repair in India. However, as per an official statement issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, a committee has been formed to develop a framework for the ‘right to repair’, chaired by Nidhi Khare, who is the additional secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The committee held its first meeting on July 13th this year and identified important sectors where the consumer’s right to repair would be crucial. (iPleaders)

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