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Right To Repair

Right To Repair
By Todd Strandberg

The Right to Repair has become an important issue in America. Companies have become so powerful that they are destroying our system of capitalism. When you buy many products today, you are basically renting them. When something you 100% own breaks, you have to upgrade or turn to the company for expensive repairs.

A few weeks ago I read that President Joe Biden had signed an executive order that supported people’s Right to Repair. The executive order targeted anti-competitive practices in tech, healthcare, banking, and other key parts of the economy. The order has 72 actions that would lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, promote innovation, and foster economic growth. New regulations that agencies may write to translate his policy into rules could trigger epic legal battles, however.

I thought that was strange for the president to be implementing a rule that should go through Congress. It turns out there is already a law that guarantees the people’s Right to Repair, but companies have decided to ignore the law. Apple and John Deere are two notorious firms for violating the Right to Repair law.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak spoke out on the issue during a recent appearance on Cameo, a website. In a post to Louis Rossmann, a YouTube personality and a right-to-repair advocate, Wozniak said that he was “totally supportive” of the cause — which gives consumers the right and information to fix their own devices — and somewhat “emotionally” affected by it.

“I do a lot of Cameos, but this one has really gotten to me,” he said in the nine-minute video. “We wouldn’t have had an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.

Wozniak, who co-founded Apple 45 years ago with Steve Jobs, said that enabling others to retool their devices also has commercial value. He pointed to the success of the Apple II computer, which he said was “modifiable and extendable to the maximum” and the “only source” of profit for Apple during its first years.

Apple has long faced criticism over policies that restrict where its customers can get their iPhones and other electronics fixed without jeopardizing their warranties. The firm is worth $2.5 trillion, and it is trying to squeeze this last dollar out of each customer.

The iPhone once cost $600, and the same smartphone is now $1,200. Apple will sign contracts with chip firms that bar them from selling replacement chips. It will also block other chips from working in their smartphone, even though it has the same functions.

I had a Samsung Note 2 for seven years that worked fine the whole time I owned it. In late 2019 I realized I needed to upgrade because Samsung had quit supporting my Note 2. What allowed me to have the smartphone for seven years is that I was able to replace the battery two times. Now the battery is tied to the internal parts of the smartphone, which makes it very hard to fix it once the battery dies.

To have John Deere playing this same game shows how bad things have gotten. Farmers need their equipment to work at crucial times during the planting and harvesting seasons. If their tractor is down and a corn crop needs to be harvested, they need to be able to get it fixed fast. John Deere is trying to require that their specialist needs to be on hand for a growing number of issues.

Farmers cannot do simple repairs because they are locked out of their equipment and need special software to unlock it. To get around this, some farmers had begun hacking their tractors with cracked software from Ukraine.

The FTC is moving toward writing new rules targeting the restrictions. A couple of weeks ago, the five FTC commissioners unanimously adopted a policy statement supporting the “Right to Repair” that pledges beefed-up enforcement efforts and could open the way to new regulations.

“These types of (repair) restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs and undermine resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”

Manufacturers, on the other hand, maintain that repair restrictions are needed to safeguard intellectual property, protect consumers from injuries that could result from fixing a product or using one that was improperly repaired, and guard against cybersecurity risks. Manufacturers say they could face liability or harm to their reputation if independent repair shops make faulty equipment repairs.

I don’t have any faith in the Biden administration’s ability to fix the Right to Repair problem. Big tech companies have lobbyists who help write the laws that regulate their business. They will push for rules that allow them to continue restricting the rights of product owners.

If our nation had a greater moral foundation, we would not have such a problem with the Right to Repair. Because we have largely become a godless nation, I don’t have much hope for consumer’s rights.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, KJV).

–Todd

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