Microsoft changes its stance on state repair bill in Washington. It’s not enough.
Microsoft has been backing a right-to-repair bill in Washington state as reported by Maddie Stone at Grist – a decision that has been met with both celebration and hesitancy by right to repair proponents.
The company, which declared right to repair a “priority” in a statement, marks a significant departure from previous opposition. In 2019 the tech giant took part in a coalition headed by trade association TechNet which helped take down a similar bill in Washington.
Since then the company’s position has evolved. In 2021, Microsoft caught praise from the likes of iFixit for their newfound focus of centering repair as a sustainability issue and adjusting product designs to better accommodate home repairs. Shortly after these announcements, a state-wide poll found that (in early 2022) just under 70% of the state’s residents supported an electronics right to repair bill.
Right to repair legislation has moved significantly in the last year: New York passed a softened electronics repair bill, Colorado passed both a power wheelchair and – in recent days – an agricultural equipment repair bill. Pressure from proposed legislation has also prompted a number of concessions from the agricultural equipment industry in the form of Memoranda of Understanding.
There is also a growing public awareness and support of right to repair. Still, Microsoft’s intentions are mostly focused on environmental impact with intentions to be carbon negative by 2030 and now annual “environmental sustainability” reports.
Also: consider the bigger picture: despite Microsoft’s tacit embrace of the Washington right to repair bill, the legislation still failed to advance out of committee in the face of opposition from three Republican members and one Democratic member – herself a former Apple employee. Microsoft subsequently expressed disappointment in that outcome in a statement.
“We were disappointed that legislation to expand safe, reliable, and sustainable options for device repair fell short of passage. The bill before the legislature fairly balanced the interests of manufacturers, customers, and independent repair shops, and, in doing so, would have provided more viable options for device repair,” the company wrote.
Site ranks phones by fixability. Turns out, old phones are more repairable.
Props to the site Electronicshub.org for its just-released round up of more than 200 smart phone models by repairability (and its opposite). The big take away? Google’s Pixel 7 is the most difficult consumer smart phone to repair, while Motorola’s Moto G7 was the easiest to repair. iPhones made by Apple, a staunch opponent of right to repair laws, actually did pretty well. In fact, the iPhone models 11, 12, 13 and 14 took four of the Top 10 most repairable phone slots.
However, the trend lines are not encouraging. In general, the older the phone was the more likely it was to be easy to repair. In fact, of the top 10 phones that were the easiest to repair at home, only two had been released within the last five years. The average age of the most repairable phones? 7.8 years.
To do its research, Electronicshub searched for 228 smartphone models on iFixit. They then analyzed the available repair guides for each and calculated the percentage of repair guides for each phone that is rated ‘easy’ to carry out. The phones determined to be the easiest to fix had the highest proportion of easy fixes. Guides ranked ‘moderate,’ ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ were combined to rank the hardest phones to fix, Electronicshub said. The site also noted iFixit’s estimated time-to-repair and used those times to calculate how long a repair takes on average for each smartphone.
All of the phones listed among the top 10 “most difficult to repair” were hard to repair 100% of the time. The Google Pixel 7 was noted for difficulty of repair and the longest time to fix – 60.3 minutes on average. In comparison, only half of Motorola’s Moto G7 repairs were rated “difficult.” The average time to repair was less than half that of the Pixel 7: 25 minutes. (Note: pro repair devices like the Fairphone were not included in the ranking.)
The report echoes some of the same points as US PIRG’s second annual Failing the Fix report from February. That report used France’s repairability index to rate consumer laptops and cellphones from a number of manufacturers covering 330 devices. Unlike Elecronicshub, PIRG also factored in whether the manufacturer in question was actively lobbying against right to repair laws in assigning its final score. Motorola scored highly for mobile phones in PIRG’s report as well, getting a “B.” Apple, on the other hand, scored a “D,” which marked an improvement from the 2022 report when it got an “F.”
WAPO editorial calls right to repair the ‘next big thing’ in politics. “There aren’t many issues that unite Democratic, Republican and independent voters, offer a ready-made villain in greedy corporations, and tick off people from all different socioeconomic groups,” writes Paul Waldman in a recent Washington Post editorial. “Which is why the “right-to-repair” movement could gain real momentum, and why any politician looking to demonstrate real populist bona fides — rather than the phony kind — should jump on it.”
Biden Administration hails repair at anti-monopoly summit. NEC Director and White House Competition Council Chair Lael Brainard gave a shout out to the right to repair. Speaking at the American Economic Liberties Project’s Anti-Monopoly Summit, Brainard said consumer products were becoming easier to repair after President Biden endorsed the right to repair. “Apple and Microsoft announced they would allow people to fix their own devices. And the Federal Trade Commission has successfully secured settlements making it easier to repair grills, motorcycles, and generators,” Brainard told attendees.
The Council of Europe officially adopted a position backing right to repair. In a statement, the European Council said it adopted a ’negotiating mandate’ on a proposed directive to “empower consumers for the green transition” by amending the EU’s unfair commercial practices directive (UCPD) and the consumer rights directive (CRD). “We want to be sure that consumers are equipped to play that role with reliable information, protection against misleading advertisement, and easier ways to recycle or repair,” said Erik Slottner, Swedish Minister for Public Administration.
A Vermont-based logging company, expressed their support for Right to Repair legislation in their state (H.81, the Right to Repair Act.), emphasizing the need for loggers and farmers to have access to tools, parts, manuals, and diagnostic equipment. They also cited the challenges of repairing modern machinery and the limited availability of OEM resources, with high costs associated with diagnostic software for John Deere equipment in particular. Independence and self-sufficiency for loggers and farmers in remote areas is crucial, where waiting for dealer repairs is not always feasible.
Farmer FOMO in Wyoming after Colorado passes agricultural equipment right to repair. Speaking to Cowboy State Daily, Wyoming Farm Bureau spokesman Brett Moline said farmers in the state are suffering under the thumb of manufacturers’ repair restrictions, with expensive service calls and long waits – pain that is especially acute after farmers in neighboring Colorado won a right to repair their equipment earlier this month. Given Wyoming’s short growing season, delays in repair have significant consequences, Moline said. “You’ve got to get your crop planted and all of the sudden the one tactor (sp) you’re depending on is going to be down for a couple of days?” Moline said. “That kind of kisses the duck right on the tailfeathers, but there’s not a damn thing you can do about it, because you’re snookered.” A right to repair was proposed in Wyoming, but failed to pass.
Why I stood outside of Google’s office calling for longer lasting Chromebooks. “Google could double the lifespan of these laptops, saving schools money and helping the environment. Now, we need to show the overwhelming support for action,” writes Lucas Gutterman of PIRG.
Minnesota’s “Digital Fair Repair Act” passed the House and Senate, and would allow consumers to choose independent repairs for digital electronics.
An Illinois bill, HB 3601, aims to support schools repairing electronics by providing them with the necessary resources to repair and extend the lifespan of classroom technology, such as Chromebooks. The bill would ensure schools have access to information, tools, spare parts, and software, making it more affordable to maintain and use the devices for educational purposes.
Austria’s repair stipends focused on disposal of electrical devices have surpassed expectations with over 560,000 redeemed vouchers of up to €200.
India’s Right to Repair framework, created by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, established a portal to better equip customers to repair their products instead of buying new ones. The framework covers farming equipment, mobile devices, consumer durables, vehicles, and automotive accessories. It aims to provide information and facilitate trade between manufacturers, third-party buyers, and sellers, while reducing electronic waste and promoting the circular economy.
A shop converting roadsters into EV’s is highlighting the importance of the specialized knowledge needed for deep-level EV repairs, suggesting that the industry can rely on a “hub and spoke” approach, similar to remanufacturing in the automotive industry—with potential for extending this concept to the broader EV industry, including right to repair laws and new business models based on distributing knowledge. Though the owner of the business anticipates that IoT and AI will further shape the industry.
Upcoming Repair Events:
Princeton CITP: Tech In Conversation – Critical Technology Ecologies and the Future of Repair
In this panel, we will hear from community leaders, scholars, and activists from the tech, environmental, and repair sectors, advocating for consumers to have the option to repair, not just buy. We’ll also hear from those on the front lines of e-waste and innovation, and those who study the colonial and historical ties to violence created by the use of technology. Together, these panelists will elucidate the current state of affairs around the right to repair and discuss what a collective reparative future might look like.