Robert Triggs/Android Authority
- Google, Samsung, Apple and Microsoft are apparently embracing self-repair.
- The initiatives announced are long in promise and short in detail.
- The motivations may be self-preservation more than altruism.
Several device manufacturers have recently announced self-repair services, but the reasons for these initiatives may have more to do with self-preservation than customer service.
Google made headlines when it announced it was partnering with iFixit to make it easier for customers to repair their Pixel phones. The announcement follows similar announcements from Samsung, Apple and Microsoft. While some have applauded the announcements as a fundamental change in the way businesses operate, the real reason may be more to avoid future legislation than to make meaningful changes, a view supported by the fact that no companies revealed any concrete plans.
The right to repair is a growing movement. Consumers often prefer to repair expensive phones rather than replace them, and many groups cite the environmental impact of replacing phones over performing minor repairs. Despite the building pressure, many companies continued to make their devices increasingly difficult to repair in the interests of design and aesthetics. However, in July, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted unanimously to begin targeting “unlawful repair restrictions.”
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President of the FTC Lina Khan highlighted the advantages of the right to repair rules:
These types of restrictions can dramatically increase costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary e-waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resilience. The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out illegal relief restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to moving forward on this issue with new vigor.
Interestingly, in a few months, Microsoft announced that it would start investigating self-repair options, followed by Apple in 2021, Samsung in March 2022, and Google in early April. In Microsoft’s case, it was respond to pressure of shareholder advocacy group As You Sow. Interestingly, despite acquiescing to the pressure, Microsoft did not commit to releasing the findings of its investigation until early May 2022, with the goal of providing self-repair options by the end of the month. ‘year. Likewise, neither Samsung, Apple nor Google have committed to specific release dates.
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Taken together, these various factors paint a picture of businesses being reluctantly forced to adopt self-repair or make the decision in an effort to avoid legislation that could be much stricter than they would like and impose significant design changes to their products in order to comply. Either way, it’s clear that these efforts are not driven by any real concern for customers or the environment.
Nevertheless, whatever the reason, right to repair efforts are always a victory for consumers. Hopefully the companies will keep pushing forward and not find a loophole that allows them to prolong and delay such initiatives indefinitely.