For decades, manufacturers have been gradually removing support for independent repair and locking down all manner of equipment -- from commercial HVAC to consumer devices like cell phones. Over the course of 2021, reverse logistics advocates, consumer rights groups, tinkerers and fixers have been able to push back on this trend.
AFTER YEARS OF PRESSURE, MICROSOFT CHANGES COURSE ON REPAIR
Microsoft agreed on October 7 to take concrete steps to allow consumers to get their devices repaired by people outside the tech giant’s authorized network. To comply with the outcome of negotiations led by the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, Microsoft will hire an outside research firm to analyze the environmental benefits of increasing access to repair, and of making new parts and documentation available beyond its authorized repair network by the end of 2022.
Those are real concessions, and this is a big deal for the Right to Repair campaign. Microsoft has long been one of the movement’s biggest opponents, from designing products with terrible repairability ratings, to its conduct in the case that sent electronics refurbisher Eric Lundgren to prison, to its high-profile lobbying against Right to Repair laws. Now, the tech giant is publicly committing to expanding repair options -- a complete about-face as a result of consumer education, regulatory pressure and shareholder activism.
THE FTC BEGINS INVESTIGATING McDONALD'S ICE CREAM MACHINE REPAIR
McDonald’s ice cream machines, made by market-dominating manufacturer Taylor, are infamous for breaking down. And when they do, franchises have to call high-priced authorized Taylor repair technicians. That’s why a startup company, Kytch, created a product to assist McDonald’s franchise managers with maintenance. It decodes unintelligible error messages and supplements them with instructions on how to avoid similar breakdowns, avoiding pricey service calls. According to a lawsuit filed by Kytch, Taylor illegally obtained and then copied the product, which Kytch asserts it did to “protect a multimillion-dollar repair racket.” It now appears that the FTC is investigating McDonald's equipment repair.
This could be the first investigation the FTC has brought after the commissioners voted in July to step up enforcement around the Right to Repair.
THE DAILY SHOW COVERS RIGHT TO REPAIR
One advantage of McFlurry access being a Right to Repair issue: It’s good fodder for jokes. In October 2021, Trevor Noah and the Daily Show aired a 10 minute, in-depth look at Right to Repair, starting with McDonald's and ending with a more serious issue: medical Right to Repair. It certainly feels like Right to Repair is having its day in the sun. Check out the piece.
APPLE iPHONE 13 SCREEN REPAIR LOCKS SHOWS STAKES OF REPAIR ACCESS
Ask any consumer-facing electronics repair shop, and it’s likely they will tell you that broken screens are a majority of their repair jobs, and that the most common device to fix are iPhones.
Many shops are worried about the news that the new iPhone 13 completely disables the Face ID functionality when you replace its screen. There are two ways to regain Face ID, use Apple’s restricted pairing software, or do an expensive micro-soldering transfer of a Tic Tac® sized chip.
Without the ability to successfully do screen repairs, Repair.org estimates that thousands of repair shops will go out of business over the next few years, as more iPhone 13s come in for service. The clock is ticking to put Right to Repair rules in place, and guarantee access to the necessary pairing software.