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Right-to-repair movement receives boost from US vote

Paul Lipscombe
July 29, 2021

UK mobile industry welcomes moves to ramp up the right-to-repair smartphones

The mobile industry has welcomed a US vote to ramp up laws against repair restrictions such as limited availability of parts, enabling consumers to more easily fix their own devices.

The so-called ‘right to repair’ has long been an issue for the mobile industry, with access to some genuine OEM parts difficult to obtain and certain repairs hard to carry out.

A committee at the country’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) voted five to zero in favour of the policy.

The UK and Europe have also made recent moves towards right-to- repair rules obliging manufacturers to make spare parts available, but some press reports suggest the UK rules exclude smartphones and laptops. The US vote has been hailed as positive by some of the UK’s repair companies, which hope to see the legislation carried over to these shores.

Mobio Distribution founder and director Josh Harrison said the ruling was positive for the industry and for businesses such as Mobio that specialise in repairing smartphones.

“The ruling means that companies such as ourselves don’t get pushed out of the market, as we’ve been worried about the Apple overlords having more and more ability to shut down our market over the last few years,” he said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”


Harrison added that more openness around repairs would benefit both consumers and the environment.

“Right-to-repair allows people the right to be able to fix their devices and not have to rely on the original manufacturer to do it, or not have to purchase a new device. I think we’re moving into a generation now where people will begin to fix things rather than replace them.”

Ultimo Electronics managing director Josh Hannan says such moves will drive more choice around repairs and boost competition.

At the Norwich-based firm, which repairs and sells refurbished smartphones, Hannan said: “I think it’s really good news, particularly for our business, if stronger measures are enforced in the UK.

“I think you should have the right to repair it yourself or be able to have a choice of where to go for those repairs. It drives competition in the market. If manufacturers take all the market share in that area, it’s wrong as it creates a non-competitive market.”

Refurbished marketplace Back Market have also shown support for the right to repair movement.

Back Market public affairs manager Marie Castelli said: “Non discriminatory access to spare parts, technical information on product design, repair software or even tools are essential for them to perform qualitative repairs and offer the best products to customers willing to purshace second hand devices.

“OEMs have an essential role to play in granting access, at a fair price, to all these essentials. And they are not always playing a fair game.

“In this context, we believe public authorities all over the world should adopt legislations creating a true right to repair for customers and refurbishers, mandating OEMs to grant open access to everything needed to repair when putting their products on the market. That’s why we’ve joining the right to repair coalitions in Europe and the US, and actively work on bringing our expertise to public deciders on those matters.”


Earlier this month, prior to the ruling, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also gave his backing to the right-to- repair movement.

Wozniak, who co-founded Apple in the 1970s with Steve Jobs, said: “It’s time to recognise the right to repair more fully. Companies inhibit [the right to repair] because it gives the companies power, control, over everything.”

Marina Koytcheva, VP of forecasting at analyst firm CCS Insight, has called the support for mobile phone repairs a positive development for consumers.

This follows a recent CCS Insight study that found two in five mobile phone users in the US would be keen to have their phone repaired at a reasonable cost, further highlighting the consumer appetite.

“People are showing considerable interest in repairing electronic devices and this support by the FTC is a positive development for consumers,” said Koytcheva.

She added that the move could also be beneficial for mobile phone vendors, despite seeming to be the opposite at first sight.

“At first glance, it might look like this development is not in the mobile phone makers’ favour, as people will be able to hold onto their phones for longer,” she said.

“However, this might create an opportunity for mobile repair companies to sell more premium devices as customers expect to use their phones for longer, instead preferring to purchase a future-proofed model packed with the latest features.”

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