The right to repair our devices is also a social justice issue

Over the past couple of years, devices like our phones have become much harder to repair, and unauthorized repair often leads to a loss of warranty. This is partially driven by our manufactured need for devices that are slimmer and slicker, but is mostly an explicit strategy to make us throw away our old devices and have us buy new ones.

This doesn’t just have a negative impact on the climate. A new US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report shows that repair restrictions “may fall more heavily on communities of color and low-income communities.” This is because (in the US) “many Black-owned small businesses are in the repair and maintenance industries,” and because “Black and Hispanic Americans are about twice as likely as White Americans to have smartphones, but no broadband access at home” so “this smartphone dependency makes repair restrictions on smartphones more likely to affect these communities adversely.”

It is therefore encouraging to see that EU is moving towards a comprehensive right to repair both in the Green Deal action plan from the Commission and in the ambitions of the Parliament. The FTC report shows that it behoves our EU institutions to also take into account matters of racial justice when thinking about right to repair regulation.

See: FTC Report Finds Manufacturers’ Repair Restrictions Unwarranted at iFixit.

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