Recently, the European Commission (EC) adopted a new proposal intended to enable and promote the repair of a range of consumer goods, including household devices like vacuum cleaners and washing machines, as well as electronic devices such as smartphones and televisions. Depending on how the European Parliament and Council vote in the next steps, this proposal may shape many details of how devices we regularly interact with work, and how they can be repaired when they no longer do.
As we have seen recently with the Digital Fair Repair Act in New York, which was signed into law last year, the devil is as always in the details. In the case of the New York bill, the original intent of enabling low-level repairs on defective devices got hamstrung by added exceptions and loopholes that essentially meant that entire industries and types of repairs were excluded. Another example of ‘right to repair’ being essentially gamed involves Apple’s much-maligned ‘self repair’ program, that is both limited and expensive.
So what are the chances that the EU will succeed where the US has not?
At its core, the EC proposal involves the following:
- Within the warranty period, the seller must offer repair services, except when repair is more expensive than a replacement.
- Beyond the warranty period, customers must have access to repair options for all devices that are considered ‘repairable’ under EU law.
- Sellers are legally obligated to inform their customers about these options.
- Establishing of an online ‘match-making’ repair platform to connect consumers with repair services and sellers of refurbished devices.
- The ability to request full information on repair conditions and price from repair shops by customers.
- The introduction of a European quality standard for repair services.
What these measures seek to address is the inability of customers to have devices repaired, despite a willingness by the majority of Europeans to make use of such repair services. This should not be too surprising, as repair is often a more consumer-friendly option than a replacement. Imagine a washing machine or refrigerator that you have had in use for years with no problems, until something small like a seal or sensor needed replacing. In these cases it would be much less of a hassle to either replace it yourself or have someone replace it for you, rather than having to purchase a whole new device, having it delivered and disposing of the old one.
Naturally, this all relies on replacement parts being available and affordable. In the case of Apple’s repair programs, only some replacement parts are at all, and all too often for an entire assembly rather than a singular component. When the cost of repairing a device begins to approach the cost of replacing it, most will replace it, as a new device will come with a full warranty and be generally seen as the better deal.
If the EC proposal, once implemented, has the requisite ability to enforce fine-grained repair options, we may see the return of devices that are designed to be diagnosed and repaired. This would not only be a good thing for consumers, but also for the environment, as recycling is usually not the optimal solution.
Attitudes towards consumer goods have changed over the past decades. Whereas repair shops were a common sight in the 1980s, and devices such as washing machines but also home computers like the Commodore 64 had repair and diagnosis manuals available for them. These featured not only full schematics and assembly diagrams, but also lists of individual replacement parts and the part number to use when ordering a replacement from the manufacturer. In a way, this provided a guaranteed revenue flow for devices, even after the customer had purchased them.
Compare this to modern-day smartphones, which do not come with schematics, rarely offer even full replacement assemblies, and use a bewildering amount of glue and screws that makes any repair an exercise in frustration. As demonstrated in a recent repair video by Hugh Jeffreys on an iPhone 14 Pro Max that suffered damage to the glass enclosure, even sourcing replacement parts from third-party sellers may not be enough to restore full functionality. Despite hours of tedious micro-surgery on the smartphone, Hugh ran into the final insult in the form of Apple’s insistence on matching serial numbers of individual components within the phone, leading to disabling features such as auto screen brightness adjustment.
The reasoning behind this is in a way understandable, of course. The revenue from new purchases will always be higher than for repairs, making planned and even forced obsolescence sensible approaches to maximize revenue. Yet at the same time, consumers are waking up to the benefits of repair, which is a selling point that companies such as Valve are leaning into, with products like their Steam Deck, for which you can actually purchase OEM replacement components, along with repair guides, even if schematics or a block diagram are still missing.
As with the original draft of the controversial Digital Fair Repair Act, the best case is that schematics and parts are made available to make board-level repairs possible. It has been demonstrated repeatedly in repair videos by Louis Rossmann and others that devices like a laptop often stop working due to something as simple as a shorted SMD capacitor, or power management chip (PMIC). Being able to rapidly diagnose and fix common issues would make such simple repairs much more economical, and having schematics would help repair shops to develop their own diagnostics.
Finally, being able to get replacements for less common parts like specialized ASICs is essential, without having to gamble on likely harvested chips from random Chinese marketplaces. So with all this in mind, does the EC proposal have any teeth here that would force manufacturers to enable repairing?
Design For Repair
When we look at the proposal (PDF), in chapter 5, article 5 the ‘Obligation to repair’ is detailed. Here the wish is uttered that repairs can be regarded as a source of revenue, but without enforcement. Perhaps the most interesting element is found in the directive itself, in Article 5(3), that states that “Producers shall ensure that independent repairers have access to spare parts and repair-related information and tools [..]”.
In short, this proposal is at first glance rather similar to the ‘right to repair’ bills that have been put forward in the US over the years, one of which got mauled in New York. Although interesting as an indication of intent, it should be clear that this EC proposal has to make it through the European Parliament and further bodies unscathed to even stand a chance of making an impact.
Here another proposal by the EC against ‘greenwashing’ could perhaps be more effective. This concerns essentially regulations for the advertising of environmental claims, such as the use of recycled plastics and ‘carbon-neutral production’. These claims would need to be independently verified and communicated to the consumer using clear labeling that should provide more transparency about the true environmental impact of new devices.
As reported by The Register, the Right to Repair Coalition welcomed the EC proposal, but strongly feels that it doesn’t go nearly far enough in making repairing devices easy or affordable, also due to the relatively limited number of devices covered by the proposal.
Two of the most common arguments used against letting repair shops and consumers repair their own devices would appear to be regarding ‘safety’ and about giving competitors an edge. The former refers to the risk from poor repairs and low-quality parts, possibly installed by unscrupulous repair shops, which could ‘injure or kill’ consumers. This is a claim that holds little water; official parts and repairs are already responsible for significantly more harm, as Louis Rossmann has harped on repeatedly in his video blogs.
That competitors might make knock-off products or steal IP if full schematics were made available is the second big argument, yet the easy counter argument here is that to do diagnosis you do not need to have the production files, only enough connectivity data to pin-point the faulty part(s) that are making the system not work, after which you can replace it and send the customer on their merry way. And besides, we all know that Phone Company A has enough resources and incentive to reverse Phone Company B’s phone anyway.
Such arguments get increasingly more silly in the case of common household devices such as washing machines and refrigerators. When the fix of replacing a few seals or belt – maybe a compressor unit if it’s truly knackered – is a complex task, it should be clear that such household goods were never designed to be maintained. The increase in flimsy plastic bits in such goods that do not have an official replacement would attest to this notion.
Ultimately, the fight to be allowed to repair our own devices is one that is unlikely to end any time soon, and whether or not this proposal will emerge with enough teeth to help is an open question. What we as consumers can do, however, is to actively choose devices that are repairable.
144 thoughts on “Europe’s Proposed Right-To-Repair Law: A Game Changer, Or Business As Usual?”
The cost of a labor-hour in the EU is the limiting factor. Even before counting in spare parts, you’re looking at a cost between 50-100 Euros per hour for a typical job that takes 4 hours. One third is tax, another third is business overhead, and one third is the hourly wage of the person – roughly speaking.
So, with the cost to repair for just about anything starting from 200-400 Euros, fixing phones and televisions, fridges etc. simply doesn’t make any sense. You may just as well buy a new one either way.
The point though is that it allows users to repair items themselves, and in that case time is not or less or an issue.
But most just won’t. It’s sometimes difficult to realize how reluctant people are to do anything by themselves, and the corporations know that very well. Even if you give the average Joe schematics and parts lists, even tools and direct instructions, 99 times out of 100 they’ll still be perfectly helpless.
That’s why all your relatives come to you with their trivial computer/phone/TV problems.
Hey Dude, We get that you don’t want to repair things and don’t want to pay others to do it, and have super valuable time you spend doing important stuff.
Other people do. Not everyone has a money tree, and when you are cash poor, you fix it yourself or get a shade tree mechanic to do it.
Here’s (some of) whats been fixed at our place in the last couple of years:
e.g. My 20yr old son got sick of the washing machines noise. Pulled it open. New pump $45. Took him less than 1hr labour – he’s never touched a washing machine before in his life. New replacement price $1600.
Bread machine: New parts $59+17. Repair time <15mins. New one $420
Induction hob: New glass $275. Repair time <30mins. Replacement cost $2300
Microwave: Replacement invertor $0 from a donor. Time <30mins. Replacement $250
Lets tot that up;
Replacement cost: $4570
Spare parts: $396
Repair time: 2hrs 15 + travelling
Oh forgot tools to fix all those: 1x #2Philips
Now your time might be worth $1800/hr, but mine isn't nor is my sons.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. I repair my stuff – though often times, and particularly with small consumer electronics, it just doesn’t make sense unless you consider it a hobby.
I work around educating people who are studying to become engineers/technicians and 9 times out of 10 these people coming in are too scared to touch anything with electricity going through it, and anything mechanical goes right over their heads.
People have very little hands-on experience from a young age on these days. They don’t assemble computers, build model kits, or fix mopeds any longer – they’re more “software oriented” meaning, they merely use the devices – so they lack the confidence to work on the stuff.
‘In my home case (a Hackaday user)’ is not representing the electronic compliance of all human species.
For an iphone costing 1,000 euros …. it’s worth it.
But then how many iphones of that kind the shop needs to receive to keep in business ? If the EU included some hefty tax exemptions to registered repair shops, that would help too.
I would argue that everyone knows some one ( directly or indirectly) that can “fix that thing” . It would be a lot easier if that friend could find the parts or the schematics and probably would not cost 400 dollars.
While I agree with the point, I can’t help but point out the irony: the savings come chiefly through rendering services at far below the median wage and tax evasion, making it both socially and individually exploitative as a general practice. It’s supporting “grey economy”.
When one’s “doing it for the love” it’s gauche to ask for compensation. /s
That said, I fully support grey economy as a counterpoise for exploitative government practices. They pretend to give us public services, we pretend to pay them taxes.
Sure, but the question then is, is a 1,000 Euro phone worth it in the first place?
The average smartphone in the EU has been just under 400 Euros, according to statista.
Also mind that the typical customer for an out-of-warranty phone could buy a second hand phone of the same make and model for less than it costs to repair it, because it’s a years old model by that point.
However that second hand one may not be otherwise in the same condition, with things like phones you have all the BS of network lockouts and the like – there is a substantial chance it won’t actually do what they want. And it definitely won’t have all their apps and data on it, exactly as they liked it.
So even if a replacement second hand is cheaper the repair can be well worth it to them!
Well, lucky EU residents, network lockout and phones crippled by carriers isn’t a thing. Apps come back by downloading them, as well as the data you’ve backed up in your cloud.
Oh it is still a thing in Europe – at least it has been and still is common in the UK second hand market. There is also the ‘this phone second hand phone is actually still on finance so you don’t own it’ problem that I’ve heard of being an issue here.
I believe the rules actually were changed so the carriers are not allowed to sim-lock a device any more here, but it is too recent still for it be the case for the second hand market.
Isn’t that a completely unrelated thing, though? I mean, if you buy a car on installments, the car itself is usually the collateral. You don’t own it until you’ve paid it, so you can’t sell it without transferring the original debt.
Not really Dude – at least not to the poor sap that buys the second hand phone, only to find they don’t actually own it, as the person they bought it from never owned it.
Yes, but that has nothing to do with the topic – that’s just selling on property that’s not yours, which could apply to anything. That’s just common fraud.
It has a bearing on the true value of a repair vs a second hand replacement – the repair is your device, it will still be your device with all your stuff exactly as you wanted it. Where the second hand may just take money out of your pocket for nothing!!! It may not happen every time but that does happen and provides a greater uncertainty to the second hand option.
Right, so you’re talking about the risk involved in getting an equally good replacement out of the second hand market. There are ways of mitigating that risk, and then again with an old phone or camera, tablet, etc. you’re talking about a loss of 50 euros which you risk anyways for bringing it for repair, because that’s about the quote you’ll get for just diagnosing the problem.
Personal experience: I tried to have my old camera cleaned for dust. The shop refused because a second hand unit would cost less than their hourly rate just to open it up – and they couldn’t guarantee they can put it back together again.
I used to do that for flip phones, in that I bought used ones off ebay and used them to keep mine going longer.
I must be honest though, part of that was to piss off my son who ran out an bought a new phone everytime one came out with a new feature.
It really doesn’t have to be that expensive, many repair jobs don’t take an hour – heck common repairs are often going to end up on their own little custom fit repair line so you can process 3-4 in an hour! And as the cannibal points out those devices are really quite expensive – even at those prices it can be worth it.
The cost factor really does kill this EU bill though. By going for “Within the warranty period, the seller must offer repair services, except when repair is more expensive than a replacement.” all the company has to do is shrink the warranty periods they offer and heavily mark up the few spare parts they have been forced to carry – they are “more expensive” than the whole device on their own so we don’t have to do anything. “Oh EU inspector that simple rubber seal just costs too much in manpower, shipping and accounting to be made available as a spare, its a $300 part by the time we process the sale”
While the “Beyond the warranty period, customers must have access to repair options for all devices that are considered ‘repairable’ under EU law.” could have somewhat fixed that its far to weakly worded – ‘access to’ doesn’t mean sanely priced access to, and considered ‘repairable’ by whom – just how much will it cost the company to bribe the list maker compared to the profit they can make selling new stuff all the time… If that was “Beyond the warranty period, customers must have access to full device schematics and part lists to enable all repair options by the creation of compatible parts”
Every job takes at least an hour – in billing.
A real repair shop won’t bill a 5 min job as an hour. It isn’t worth it to them compared to the extra customers they will get for being sanely priced for that job. If you have to call the engineer out to you then there has to be a minium charge as all that travel time has to be accounted for – you are shipping one expensive expert out, likely with a van full of parts at great expense in comparison to the the mail it in to be fixed business model. With that model you don’t charge heaps for the simple to fix jobs – it is far better to charge sensibly and get lots of customer to keep your workers busy than charge heaps and so have to pay your worker to sit around all day waiting for a customer.
And no real Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.
A “5 minute job” would have to be something entirely trivial, like installing a new battery into a phone that was already designed to do that. That’s not really what we’re talking about here.
A customer comes in with a broken television, it takes more than 5 minutes simply to diagnose the problem. It may be simple or difficult, and you have to give the customer a quote before they agree to pay, so you say “one hour” or “two hours” and hope that it matches the work. Overcharging for the small jobs then subsidizes the big jobs that go over the clock as you average it out.
The problem is that there are no 5minute fixes in terms of time used.
Just the diagnosis and processing the order outside of that 5 minutes is something that costs.
If shipping something in for repairs, that’s 20 to 80eur of costs right there for the repair shop, regardless of the outcome of the repair.
>If shipping something in for repairs
With today’s gas prices, it’s 10 euros just for the customer to bring the item in and out themselves.
There are many very short jobs you can be 90% or more sure is going to be that 5-15 min job – common failures where you can safely hear the make and model and know its almost certainly this problem, as it is ‘always’ this problem.
Or of course its what the user requested like a new battery – even for the glued together phones if you have the right kit to make opening them easy and reliable it is frequently going to be just a few mins to do that job. Or the windscreen repair method of cracked screen fix rather than complete repair etc – there are lots of jobs folks with the gear need not ask for hours or time to fix, they have the tools and the job is that short and simple stuff you do while waiting on the data recovery to finish type thing…
Right, but here we go back to the issue of there being too many makes and models of stuff for people to learn how to fix all of that in 15 minutes – and they keep introducing new models ever year.
A person needs practice to be that efficient, which is why the shops specialize for just a handful of models – like iPhones. For the cheaper phones bought by common people, there’s hundreds of models, and even if you know the basic principle of what you’re doing, it still takes a few tries before you can flip them around like pancakes.
By law in EU warranty cannot be shorter than 2 years so no they won’t shorten warranty periods. As for parts yes this might happen, but if it will then EU will take further steps as they did finally pushing apple towards USB-C.
That’s incorrect but a common misunderstanding of EU consumer law. The law requires there to be a legal remedy for defective products that lasts for no less than 2 years. This isn’t a warranty but the ability to sue the seller under the supply contract.
Every country has its own implementation of the general regulation, so in some countries you do get warranty plus two years by default.
Namely, what they’re talking about is the “liability for defects” rule, which says that if there isn’t a warranty, or the warranty is weaker than the default minimum set by law, then the law dictates the responsibilities of the manufacturer or seller in case of a defective product. The manufacturer can weasel out by showing that the product – while it may be broken – was not defective in the sense of the ruling. I.e. if the product is inherently bad, versus simply broken by bad luck. Usually the companies don’t try to argue back and simply replace the product, because it would cost more to go to court.
It isn’t actually two years – it varies between different product classes according to “expected lifespan”.
At least in the EU, they can’t shrink warranty periods. The EU requires all products to have a 2 year guarantee on all products.
The liability for defects rule is weaker than a warranty. In some countries, the claimant must prove the that the item was defective.
“Under Article 4 of the Product Liability Directive, the claimant must establish the causal link between the defect and the damage. However, the evidence that the courts require to discharge the burden of proof can differ across EU member states. In NW et Al v Sanofi Pasteur (Case C-621/15) EU:C:2017:484, it was held that the evidentiary rules are to be determined at a national level. Each member state can determine the most just evidentiary rules”
If build with repair in mind !most! (not all ) repairs on household or handheld , will be less than an hour ++ time saved to bring the broken unit to the dump.
I wish the right to repair would include, the right to buy continued updates to the system , the android phones I bought would max upgrade to the next coming version , which means max 2 years + safety updates then the software starts to get obsolete .
It depends on whether the device is common enough and standard enough so that someone knows how to repair it in less than an hour. For some device that hasn’t even been on the market for 10 years, good luck finding someone who has the experience.
Think of it like assembling flat-pack furniture. For someone who already knows how to do it, takes 15 minutes. For someone who’s seeing the thing for the first time, 2-3 hours easily. The first hour is spent scratching head and turning the schematics the right side up.
Not really – even if a device is unusual if it is built with serviceability in mind it will have to follow a certain logic in its construction. It might be a new model for the repair person, but they already have the right the thinking in mind to get there. If it really is a 15 min job maybe it turns into two hours at the outside, more likely it is now a 30mins to maybe an hour job…
In the same way a new bit of IKEA flatpack rarely needs the manual or takes any extra time on the stuff you have already done if you have been doing their style of flatpack recently enough – the design language is pretty consistent, the tools and assembly methods identical and for IKEA at least all the parts are really well marked in their own right so its easy to work out exactly how each part fits – thanks to that little dimple here and there that proves this is an interior/rear face that part x fits too where other flatpack might leave you to get the level/square out and mark the correct locations to drive the self tapper or just wing it blind with the whole thing loosely assembled etc.
> it will have to follow a certain logic in its construction
There isn’t one certain logic for serviceability. You can’t generalize or demand that every piece of flat pack furniture must work as if IKEA designed it, or even demand IKEA to stick to the same rules.
There are only so many ways you can put things together such that they are at all serviceable Dude, it is almost all variations on a theme and somebody that spends time repairing stuff will know those variations well enough to figure it out very quickly even without a reference document.
And with the wonders of the internet you can usually find the ‘how to’ by somebody else that already worked it out or a service/assemble guide trivially as well – Especially if it is actually built to be serviced! As there was no point in designing it to be fixable if you are never going to actually let anybody anywhere know how to fix it!
Please try this out: pick up your computer mouse and open it up so you can see the camera chip, then put it back to gether.
Time yourself, starting from when you open up a search engine to find the instructions…
And remember, you have to do it neatly. No punching holes through labels to find the hidden screws.
Less than a min – though the screwdriver set does live on my desk. Looks as good as it ever did, just a few of those slide feet to pop off and put back on…
Plus the ‘No punching holes’ is BS anyway – your customer isn’t going to care about a neat little slit or slice in a sticky label on the underside of their mouse. They just want their mouse to work right again!
>Less than a min
Liar. You did it before.
>your customer isn’t going to care
Who are you to say about what the customer cares about? If you’re a repair business, you don’t just punch random holes in stuff to get at things.
On the bottom of a device a few neat cuts to get at the hidden screws most folks won’t even notice. The bottom is so often covered in the visible screw holes anyway you just have to do a reasonably neat job. If you really think it matters have a few patch stickers in various colour that match that sticker well enough to fix those holes…
And no lie, never needed to open it before. My mouse happens to be trivial to take apart. And it really wasn’t hard to guess how it was put together – the only way it could have been a surprise was if it didn’t actually have screws at all in the one space they could possible be – by being one of those horrible one way push close type things… Which it wasn’t.
If parts and/or schematics are available or opening the device is self-explanatory, repair manuals will be available in days or weeks/months after launch of a phone or whatever device.
Take Louis Rossmann as an example. Fixing even the most recent iPhones is a breeze if he can get the schematics. And even then Apple has contracts with IC manufacturers which prohibit selling spare parts to other vendors than apple.
Or they digitally lock their parts.
Meanwhile, your regular workers are only trained on how to swap broken iPhone screens and batteries. You can’t expect some random person to just pick up a hot air gun and swap a BGA chip like they’re Louis Rossmann.
If they are workers in an electronics repair shop Dude you really should be able to expect they can work the hot air gun and reball stuff – its something hobbyist that only have to touch BGA stuff and their hot air rework station once or twice a year manage quite easily. So the repair shop staff that see hundreds of devices every year are going to have so much more practice and of course actually good equipment available – its an electronics repair shop!!!
I doubt your “quite easily”. The success rate from what I see is nowhere near 100%…
Define success rate – first time perfection every time isn’t likely for the hobbyist, but eventual success is pretty damn likely after clearing it off and trying again a few times… So maybe it takes the hobbyist a few goes and some time, but they get there.
And anybody working at the repair shop really should be more at the skill level of Louis than a random hobby electronics person. Or at the very worst be sat right next to their version of Louis, as its an electronics repair shop!!! So any ol’ worker there can do the prep work for the more skilled reball wizard to come in and only have to do the final moment if they really can’t manage it.
>first time perfection every time isn’t likely for the hobbyist
It isn’t 100% for the professional either, when they encounter new products on the market, which get added every year.
> anybody working at the repair shop really should be more at the skill level of Louis than a random hobby electronics person
That’s setting a rather high bar for entry into the business, don’t you think? If that was the case, you wouldn’t have many people providing the service… and the prices would reflect that.
>That’s setting a rather high bar for entry into the business, don’t you think?
Not really dude, if you don’t have better than random hobby practitioner skill before you start you are going to get it in short order, it is a large part of the job and it isn’t by all accounts some black magic impossible skill to acquire. I also said more towards Louis – as like most skills and projects you will get 80-90% to perfection really quite easily, it is that last 10-20% for true perfection… So perhaps for the first little bit you end up working more hours and making less money as you don’t have the mastery you will get, but when it is something lots of folk just do with relatively primitive tools and you want to set up a real repair shop – which rather implies investing in some better than hobby grade tools as well as learning how to use them…
Simple solution to weasel around this then. Make your repair fee a flat $1000.
>50-100 Euros per hour
is that for programmer in London City?
“In 2021, average hourly labour costs were estimated at €29.1 in the EU and at €32.8 in the euro area (EA-19).”
Even in Germany car shops charge 50-80/h.
The 1:1:1 rule of thumb is surprisingly accurate. Three times the hourly labor cost is roughly the all-included price of a generic specialist service per hour. For someone working for minimum wage, say 9 EUR per hour, the service they provide costs the end consumer about 27 EUR per hour.
The average includes very low skilled jobs like fruit picking, and I’m not sure what it includes, but it’s not realistic I can assure you. No company I know of charges a person out at 30 euros and hour. It’s not uncommon now for car repairs to be charged at 100 an hour. I had a literal 1hour job done recently as I didn’t have the tool handy and was charged for 2 hours at 270euro total. This is a garage that is known by local friends to be the cheapest and most friendly around.
It also includes ridiculously high paying jobs. The median (middle number) salary is almost universally lower than the mean (“average”) salary because the income at the top 20% rises up so sharply.
Speaking of car repairs, I’ve actually had a shop charge me MORE if I bring my own spare parts rather than have them source it.
@Dude this is normal. Parts sourced by the shop are from known source (at least to them) and have some form of warranty. Customer parts add liability, you might come back a week later complaining they ruined “your parts”, or failed to fix the issue.
Yeah, this is well-intentioned but unfortunately doomed. It will end up like the EU cookie banner law. Companies will loophole the hell out of it and ultimately it will only make things in general more cumbersome and obnoxious without actually providing many benefits. Oh, hey, there’s a cookie banner at the bottom of this page now.
You can’t really take control of industry like this after you’ve outsourced ALL of it to foreign countries and tangled yourself up in global industrial politics. It won’t work until people nationalize and build their own stuff with pride again. We are told that this is impossible in ever-more hysterical and shrieking tones by people who have immense financial investment in globalization.
I guess we musn’t underestimate the greed and stupidity of of politicians.
Afaik EU parliament always had a conservative majority and the conservatives are known to fancy deals with the lobbyists.
Nationalism doesnt help if the system is neo-liberal.
Thinking of the proposed transatlantic free trade agreements that just will circumvent local legislation on both sides of the pond and hand it to corporations.
The EU is still a big enough market to make changes to the industry (RoHs for example)
There’s nothing ‘conservative’ about neo-liberals.
Absolutely this. I’d not be surprised to pay over 100 EUR/h for getting a washing machine fixed.
Plus parts, with a massive mark-up through the re-seller.
Smartphone display / battery replacements can be had done for around 50 EUR including work and parts in EU, so it is not unreasonable to expect the same for other common devices.
For some common smartphones, for some time while they’re on the market.
I’m having trouble finding a new armor glass for mine, and it’s only a 2018 model. One way how the corporations go around people repairing their products is to change the lineup so quickly that 3rd party suppliers can’t target a single model with accessories and spare parts, because it’s off of the market by the time they get the tooling done.
Our townhouse “commercial grade” freezer got repaired (new compressor and re-filling the coolant) in less time than it took for the coffee I poured them to becone drinkable temperature. I swear they were done in under 7 minutes. A competent repair man would not need 4 hours on most repairs, especially if devices were made to be repairable (like this freezer was)
Depends on the device. A “commercial grade” freezer is a very dumb device – it’s really just an insulated box with a loop of copper tubing inside. The compressors are nearly identical, and the exact make/model or size of the compressor is not critical, so it’s just a matter of connecting hoses and filling it up.
A lot of fridge repair jobs are quite simple. Like the door seal not sitting right, so the repairman makes you sign some documentation, and while you’re not looking they just take their knee to the door and yank the corner to twist it back into shape. 50 Euros please.
That depends on country EU has cheap labor countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland not only high ones like Germany or Sweden.
While you’re not wrong for most people most of the time, the proliferation of mobile phone / tablet / laptop repair shops on the high street shows that consumer demand *is* there and that what once fell out of fashion (repairing things) can come back in too.
With modern tools the potential costs in time / labour can be reduced significantly over the old ways and although “skilled” labour can be 50-100 Euro per hour, it’s easy to imagine a lot of repairs being massively reduced by self-diagnosis using a modern database via a web site, followed by automated part sourcing & pricing, easy estimation of time / difficulty, and a a Deliveroo-style dispatching of a semi-skilled operator similar to the dude on the high street phone repair shop to execute the repair in quick time rather than having to transport a faulty fridge or washing machine to a shop and back.
“What we as consumers can do, however, is to actively choose devices that are repairable.”
How would I know which devices are (easily) repairable and which not?
I like this answer. :)
I think they are doing a great job. And this law will give them a huge break. We should support them. And I think the EU should make an effort to support them as well.
Easily you do not, at least in general, as few companies are really making effort to jump up and down on how repairable and affordable their spares are, or even if you can get any spares at all!
But if you can just go to the companies website with a 10 year old plus model number and see a list of available spare parts they will sell you its probably a good sign it was designed to be fixed. May even be service manuals. And that is suggestive their new stuff will be treated to the same. Also worth a quick look for the device you intend to buy on something like ifixit.
I can still find the parts listings for a pair of headphones I have, but none of those parts are actually available.
I did specifically say available!
Though just having a list of those parts is still a very good start – with the id code for that part and some searching you are often going to find a good refurb/NOS/working used part you can use and know it is drop in compatible!
Most companies don’t have a webstore that sells parts directly, so you’d have to send in a special inquiry, and the most common reply you get is that they don’t sell OEM parts direct to individuals, please go ask the retailer you bought the thing from.
Believe me, I’ve been chasing parts from Sweden to Italy and everywhere in between for various stuff over the years. It’s simply not a guarantee for anything to see a part listed on a website.
Which again dude is why I said ‘AVAILABLE spare parts they will sell you’!!!
Where having a list of the parts is better than not – means you can do a search of all the usual suspects and find the 3rd party/second hand that is actually compatible.
Most of the time you’ll have to go through extensive trouble to ensure they’re actually available and not just old listings in some importer catalogue, and that will only apply for the moment you’re asking, so you can’t know whether you can get the replacement in 2, 5 or 10 years time. The best bet is to buy the spare part right when you’re buying the product IF it is immediately available, assuming the part doesn’t have a limited shelf life like a battery does.
It is exceedingly rare that a company just outright lists spare parts they’re ready to sell to you. If you go by that rule, you couldn’t buy almost anything.
There are more than a few places that do easily offer spare parts for sale, it isn’t as common as I’d like but it does happen. AND I DID SPECIFICALLY SAY UPFRONT LOOK WITH AN OLD MODEL – it is already for that model many years down the line. So if the parts are just available for the old model they are likely to be for the new one too when it gets to be old… No certainty of course but the method a company operates under tends to have pretty significant inertia and only change rapidly if they get bought.
I remember ye olden days. Where Philips would stock all spare parts for a minimum of 15 years.
But nowadays everything is just-in-time. Obviously this saves companies from overspending on stocks and having to write-off unused stock once in a while. But it also always causes stock shortages if the OEM can’t deliver just-in-time. And as nothing is in stock: if the demand drops, new batches will not be made anymore, and repairmen won’t be able to get the parts anymore.
Like what happened now with the chip shortage. Many manufacturers couldn’t get parts for their devices anymore. But their business has to go on. So what happened with many of them is that they just wrote-off their product prematurely, and redesigned it based on new parts. Many even dropped their complete own products in favour of buying OEM products and rebranding them.
Just-in-time is a blessing and a curse in one.
“How would I know which devices are (easily) repairable and which not?”
That’s a great question! And it’s at the heart of the whole “let the consumers decide” movement. They have to know to make the right choices.
They require nutrition labels on food, energy-efficiency on appliances, etc. How about repairability ratings? How would you make that quantifiable?
I immediately thought of the same thing. Like cigarette packaging in Canada with the huge warnings. Or Monroney stickers when buying a car.
Or the cigarette packages in Australia where the majority of the package is a graphic image of the effects of some smoking related disease/condition.
I’d say most users don’t care juuuuust until their fancy gadget breaks. Buying stuff like that is highly emotional stuff for people. It’s not rational.
And do you really think nutrition labels make fast food or sweets or chips sales drop by any significant number? I highly doubt it. People just don’t care enough. If they would, we wouldn’t feel the need for those labels in the first place…
As Germany “just” introduced that stupid Nutri-Score I’d say we’ll have some solid data available in a few years.
I absolutely believe that people look at the energy efficiency ratings when they buy big appliances, for instance. I don’t see why this wouldn’t be another valuable dimension.
The energy efficiency ratings are meaningless because they’re relative. They set the standard for grade “A” at some arbitrary point which has no meaning for the consumers. Even if they knew what it means, the “G” rating still costs them pennies, so it really doesn’t matter unless they’re very poor, at which point they couldn’t afford the “A” rated appliance anyhow.
>They require nutrition labels on food, energy-efficiency on appliances, etc.
How many people actually read these labels? I don’t.
Il existe, dans de nombreuses villes de France, et j’imagine ailleurs en Europe, des ateliers de réparation collaborative, qui échappe aux règles mercantiles, et ne font payer que l’adhésion (minime, voire gratuite pour les personnes les plus fragiles). Cela a donc du sens, si les lobbys ne détourne pas l’esprit de cette loi. Exemple : à Lyon : Réparons, Atelier Soudé (j’y suis bénévole).
They should add verbiage that requires full teardown drawings and schematics to be released once the manufacturer is no longer offering support for the product. A similar rule should apply to software as well.
Sure, the manufacturers are not helping when it comes to repairable devices. But in the end, even with a perfect repairable device, who wants to gamble?
5 Year old washing machine e.g.:
Technician takes a look = 20% of the price of a new machine.
Repair cost = 0% to 100+% of a new machine.
And then you still have a 5 year old machine, with one issue fixed (Hopefully).
In most cases its not any more of a gamble – that 5 year old machine has so many wear parts that when you have to get it repaired should be checked or replaced by default anyway and the rest of it is known good. The new one can be a dud from the factory, built cheaper so it will be a much greater ongoing cost, not as quiet/cheap to run, damaged in shipping (which may or may not apply to a repair job) – A new device isn’t always ‘better’ there.
Not to mention a big one for many business (and the older family member who can’t deal with changes very well anymore) is there is no retraining time to learn how to operate the new machines.
Rubber and plastic is never “known good”, it’s just “not broken yet”.
It is a rule of thumb that any machine assembled out of spare parts costs 10x the price of the factory made machine. Replacing every part that you should replace to “refurbish” the machine to good as new typically costs you 1x the price of the new machine – if you count your time being worth nothing.
Good washing machines last 10+ years are easy to repair with spare parts available (springs, heater, etc.).
I think mine is >20 if not >25 years old.
But people buy 300€ washing machines because they’re cheap and not everyone can afford a Miele, Bosch or whatever brand that still builds those quality machines (which are more like >1000€ or more).
This week I have repaired a pc motherboard from 2005 for a customer. 7 capacitors from the motherboard had popped up. 2 hours of labour to desolder, clean and put the replacements (it’s hard to clean the tin in the holes of a big ground plane! ) Had to order the capacitors.
Is it worth all this for an old pc?
Of course, it’s an industrial pc that rules a plastic extruder for a factory. There’s no new pc’s for this machine so if/when the pc dies they have to buy a new machine for several hundred thousand €.
I’ve done some similar repair jobs for the industry back in the day. Replacing components on a board was done on a hot plate, and the rule was that every 60 seconds on the plate would age the components 10 years worth of use. If the repair job took more than 60 seconds, the board was rejected because it could cause the other components to break soon after.
You trained on the already rejected boards, so you could do the work in one smooth motion and throw the board on the chiller plate in seconds.
What if there was a standard or similar to certify the product as repair friendly and hence “environmental friendly marked”. Like CE or RYF but for repairability.
This is doable only as long as there is clear provision for parts and tools in there.
iPhones are a great example of why “Right to Repair” isn’t a magical panacea. A lot of “anti-repair” features come down compromises made for other competing reasons. For instance a phone that isn’t easily repairable, can be much more compact and/or waterproof, and can often built for much cheaper. In the iPhone case, another concern is ensuring that the encryption can’t be easily bypassed. The first step to trying to make the encryption robust is trying to enforce legitimate controlled hardware. I’m not going to claim that the digitizer or the screen brightening needs to be controlled for encryption, but one could make an argument that right-to-repair requires that you can easily swap memory modules or storage modules. This would obviously run counter to a goal of strong encryption. These types of trade-offs are not something I expect a bunch of government legislators to have the expertise to understand.
You can make compact, watertight and repairable and it doesn’t have to cost a huge amount more, just looks a little different – for some reason visible fastener have become ‘wrong’ as a design.
Swapping a memory module has nothing to do with strong encryption unless that particular module holds the encryption keys. In which case it then renders the encrypted bulk storage ‘unreadable’ as you don’t have the right key any more. If the module you remove is the bulk storage it is still just as unreadable out of the phone as in – the data should at any rate be encrypted on the now removed hardware. Change any of them for new ones and the phone should just work but perhaps end up in factory reset type condition if you can’t read out the correct keys/data from the failing memory.
Encryption/security and ID number sensitive parts in a repair really have nothing much in common – the nearest it comes to valid on that score is being aware parts have changed could be considered a valid ‘tamper alert’ message for the OS to deliver just in case you didn’t actually knowingly repair your phone… Other than that it is all just BS excuses to allow them to prevent salvage repairs. With perhaps the tiniest grain of truth when dealing with parts like batteries where a shoddy repair could actually pose some small risk to life.
>compact, watertight and repairable, low cost
Pick one out. Watertight and compact are mutually exclusive unless you use screws to hold it together instead of snap-fits. Otherwise the IP rating is just nominal – it won’t hold in use. Glue makes the IP ratings true, but it won’t be repairable. With screws you have to compromise compactness versus cost, because the manufacturing and especially the assembly costs go up the smaller you try to make them.
Snap fit and repairable rarely go together – it is really really damn hard to design a good snap fit that will actually survive a few cycles, lots and lots of testing to be sure the snap is just at that perfect level of deformed in a cycle that it doesn’t fatigue, while hooked over whatever it latches to securely enough and yet not so securely it won’t open again…
And you really don’t have to make screws smaller and fiddlier, and so expensive to fit to have a compact device – that just means you didn’t bother looking for better design for production. For instance I actually have an interesting little phone on my desk that has a single screw that holds it all together – one longer screw that attaches the front and back halves by screwing in through the thinner sides – take the screw out and you can peel the sides apart like a book with the spine opposite the screw. It clamps both sides together more than snug enough for a device that isn’t meant to be a submarine, and that same method could be used to create a submarine level of secure if you wish to. It seems to actually be very much the same clamping mechanism as watertight doors often use.
Glue isn’t required for IP rating, compactness, or cheapness of production – it just allows the companies to parade a new model every few months while not having to really invest much design time into the unit – throw lots of bits in the shell fill with glue and smash it shut is quick to design and sloppy internal fit doesn’t matter as you are so largely relying on the glue.
But if you keep the same shell for more than one model or 5 mins (whichever is shorter as the companies are currently doing to keep making noise about a ‘new model’) you can easily make a design that is just as cheap to produce as gluing it together, maybe even cheaper per unit. It just took a little more design upfront and to then stick with that shape long enough to spread the cost of the more elaborate tooling.
You are basically thinking the mind working (to compliant your needs) costs zero…
You are entering the realm of “You don’t have right to design your idea as you want”.
@visitor Not at all – you can do whatever you want, I’m just saying you don’t HAVE to use glue.
And I do acknowledge there is likely to be more upfront cost in the creation of a device that isn’t entirely glued together – but I also point out that if you just keep the model around a little longer or reuse the outer case for multiple models that initial upfront cost is spread over so many devices it doesn’t make the cost per device meaningfully higher! It might even make it lower – the bulk of the cost for all these things is setting up the initial production line, but the longer you run it the longer the cost per unit in material and failure rate starts to matter – where a more careful design for production and repair may end up being cheaper to produce.
>And you really don’t have to make screws smaller and fiddlier, and so expensive to fit to have a compact device
You have no idea. Anything smaller than millimeter scale gets really really fiddly in terms of automation… goes down to watchmaking stuff. If you specify millimeter scale screws, you’re looking at cellphones like they were in the early 90’s.
The thing that kills you is tolerances. Nothing is ever the same size or position, by manufacture or by temperature etc., or by sheer luck of chance, and that applies exponentially the smaller you go, so your robot that assembles the product has to deal with situations where the hole for the screw is off by twice the diameter of the screw, and the position of the end of the screw as it sits in the applicator is unknown by 100% of the diameter of the screw. How on earth do you get the two to line up?
Simple: by spending half a billion dollars in equipment to measure and compensate for it. Of course, when you change the product, all that work starts all over again…
You don’t have to use the really really tiny screws though. In my phone example it is something like M2 and several mm long, it aligns itself and all the parts really really easily.
The right design lets you use pretty damn giant screws and have relatively huge tolerance in their position and the part shapes because all that matters is tighten the screw to a torque that provides the clamping force and it will align everything thanks to the mass stamped injection molded part geometry. Not all small devices needs to be made to stupidly high tolerance with really tiny screws.
As someone who actually designs stuff, I can tell that this is rarely true. It’s harder and more expensive to make a compact system that is deliberately difficult to repair than it is to unintentionally make one that is easy to repair. The only real exceptions to this are circuit boards, where make electronic components easily replaceable can be prohibitively expensive, in terms of monetary cost, space/size, and design time. It’s often significantly easier to make a case that comes apart than one that is permanently sealed, because you are going to start with that and stick to it for the vast majority of development and testing. A sealed case is an extra design step that is unnecessary unless you are trying to lock down the device. Designing press fit pieces for internal structure might require a little extra design time, but that’s a one time cost. Gluing down parts requires an enormous amount of cumulative time, and it adds a significant per-unit production cost for the glue and the machinery operation and maintenance. It’s true that waterproofing is significantly easier with sealants than waterproof fit, but that can be done just as easily with a replaceable silicone bead as with permanent glue, and silicone tends to be more reliable for water proofing anyway. Silicone also tends to be cheaper on its own than as an adhesive mix, so you’ll save money by doing this as well.
Now, to be fair, I think they are going about it wrong. If the company has a patent, they’ve already published all of that documentation, so they shouldn’t have any problem providing copies to the general public. That is the purpose of patents, after all (exchange public disclosure of your invention for temporary market security). If the published patent information isn’t sufficient for people to understand the product well enough to repair it themselves (within reason), then the patent isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, so it should become invalid, reverting to the public domain.
The encryption argument is bull crap. If I want to do something that runs counter to strong encryption on my iPhone, why the heck is it any of Apple’s business? Void the warranty, sure. They have every right to cover their butts, if I’m circumventing security features and using the product in a way that wasn’t intended. But Apple has no right to decide how I should be allowed to use my device. One thing I absolutely loathe is people who design things trying to control how I can use them. I’m currently using bolts as axles in a mechanical device I’m building. Imagine if every bolt company made their bolts square, just to prevent people from using them as axles in mechanical devices. That would be absolutely idiotic. My device also takes advantage of the magnetic properties of the bolts. Imagine if every company used non-magnetic stainless steel for all of their bolts, specifically to prevent people from using them this way. When you argue that the user might do something that circumvents security, you are defending exactly this sort of idiocy. Sure, warn the user. Make sure they know that you aren’t responsible for the consequences, if they decide to use the device in an unintended way. And then get out of the way and let people be free to do what they want with the things they legally own.
> It’s harder and more expensive to make a compact system that is deliberately difficult to repair
Depends on the requirements. The stuff I’m working with, the ability to repair and robustness are at odds. The system has to be compact, but also last “indefinitely” in mechanical and environmental terms, so the only option is to encase it in epoxy, but that means nobody can take it apart for repairs, at least not economically. The only real way to repair the unit is to replace it.
Rossman already trashed this useless EU bill in this video:
Louis Rossmann screams at EU for fifteen minutes – because they deserve it
Fixing 1995 problems, nothing useful.
Brussels is captured by big corporate lobbyists.
The decisions regarding the finer details of any such RTR Bill will be made by some of the best Politicians that money can buy; sadly it’s not OUR money…
A big issue I see with right to repair laws in general is that they bring with them a ton of extra paperwork for startups to burn money on. And this is the case regardless if the right to repair law is fair or effective in practice.
Legal texts are also often quite dull against the free market.
And generalizing the right to repair in law is likely a non trivial task.
That we electronics enthusiasts regards the schematics as the holy grail as far as right to repair is concerned is frankly a bit silly in practice.
I don’t need a schematics to repair a product, an ordered list of what component references corresponds to what value/type of component is far more useful than 50+ page schematic. Beyond that a few voltage test points goes a very long way.
A large portion of repair is general electronics experience with typical failure modes of common components. Something a repair shop will have plenty of experience with. (I don’t know how many times I have gotten dead stuff to repair with no visible flaws, and making it live as new after replacing a single dead capacitor on first guess, it is experience.)
As far as larger electronics is concerned, most fixes are somewhat “trivial”.
Now, I have stumbled over an air conditioning controller board that had an obvious flaw in the form of a dead power controller IC with integrated switching, however finding out what type it were were frankly impossible as the front of the IC were long since gone. Here a list of component types/values would have been a wonderful thing, since then I could just order a new chip. (everything else with the unit seemed fine since it didn’t consume any abnormal amounts of current when powered from a lab supply, it also worked just fine, so bodged in a separate power supply instead.)
In my experience, all my repairs stops when a component is frankly unknown. IC12 doesn’t really say much, a schematic could say more, but a list is sufficient to get the job done.
I will however agree with Louis Rossmann that it frankly isn’t nice when companies goes out of their way to make replacement components impossible to acquire, especially when it is just a variant of an off the shelf part.
But likewise if a component provies core functionality in a way where it inherently isn’t all that repairable is okay in my opinion (security chips being the main thing here). Likewise is it silly to “repair” a product by swapping out what essentially is the majority of the product’s value. (like changing the CPU die on a CPU package, this is however falling apart as an argument now that multi chip packaging is becoming more common.)
But “DRM” locking components within a product to prevent unauthorized repair is a scummy practice that frankly should be illegal. DRM-ing components to be able to inform the customer that they don’t have what they expected to have is however okay in my opinion. (as long as the information is provided in a non annoying fashion, putting it in the setting menu is sufficient for most devices. Unless quality assurance is key to the device’s functionality, this is however rarely the case in practice.)
In the end.
Right to repair is a good thing to strive for.
But instead of aiming for companies to provide all their documentation, one can instead ask them to not do the most abhorrent things (serial/DRM/vendor locking) and provide the general basics. (component names/types/values)
When that is established, one can start discussing improving reparability in design.
>they bring with them a ton of extra paperwork for startups to burn money on
Sometimes that can be a good thing. I recently bought a doodad from a startup company, and sent them an email asking, “What happens when the embedded battery in your device becomes old? Is it still OK to use it tethered to the power supply?” – and they basically went “Umm… we didn’t think of that. No, you can’t use it anymore for safety reasons”.
And the irony is, I already bought the spare parts for the thing so I’d have them when they inevitably wear out, but since the battery that’s welded into the thing will die in 4-5 years anyways, there was no point.
To be fair, in that situation I would say that the manufacturer is liable to recall their product and fix it if they have to end-of-life it due to “safety reasons” regarding a permanently attached battery.
Either the manufacturer has made a legitimate design flaw.
Or they are using it as a poor excuse to why you shouldn’t repair it.
To a degree, that manufacturers have to eat the cost of their own design flaws is already the legal requirement in most regions of the world. (often including all shipping costs. A customer should never pay for a company’s own mistakes. If one orders 1 cup of coffee, then it doesn’t matter how many cups the barista drops in the process.)
As far as poor/stupid excuses for users not to repair their devices, that is more a moral debate. But for a permanent battery, such an excuse is evidence of a design flaw.
Well, they aren’t. Not by any present ruling or law.
The EU regulations state that the company is not liable for defects that are cause by the state of the technology at the time of introduction, which means that having built-in lithium batteries that eventually become a fire hazard is not within the rule of defective products.
That’s understandable, because they really can’t do anything about it. The best technology at their disposal will become a hazard, by no fault of their own. It’s only a PR disaster for the company, which claims that their products are “sustainable” and has a callback program to re-sell their products – which they can’t do if they become a health and safety hazard.
As far as right to repair is concerned.
I don’t see much reason for why one couldn’t unsolder the batter and replace it with a new one. Finding an exact replacement is often quite trivial as far as lithium batteries are concerned. (however, not always.)
If the product however bricks itself in the process due to loosing battery power for a minute. Then that can at times be rather unsurprising (like loosing configuration settings), while at other times be completely inexcusable. (if it just runs an RTC, then there is no logical reason it should brick itself.)
However, unsoldering batteries while powering the circuit with a suitable power supply is quite trivial. So even if the device needs constant power one can often still replace a permanently attached battery. It is just a little harder.
It is likewise indeed not a design flaw to use components that can fail dangerously. But it is still the manufacturers obligation to take preventative measures.
Therefore I still regard it as a design flaw to not ensure that current can’t back feed into the non-rechargeable permanently installed battery at a rate that becomes dangerous. A simple low forward voltage diode is good enough. And when it comes to these types of battery backed applications, one isn’t using a lot of current. Often a couple of µA or less. So even a 1N4001 has fairly negligible forward voltage at these currents.
(The diode in question is often part of a pair forming an OR gate, such that when the product has external power and is running, the battery backed chip don’t use the battery for running. Mainly since toggling IO pins tends to consume noticeable amounts of current, and that would drain the backup battery rather quickly during normal operation. Some RTC chips have the diode OR on chip, such that they have a Vcc pin and a battery pin.)
In the end.
The industry has known for many decades how to solve this issue. So it is rather inexcusable to have it as the reason for why one shouldn’t operate the device long term nor attempt a repair.
Likewise is it rather inexcusable to not use even the most basic preventative measures against it becoming dangerous. (however, I do think the diode OR is there, either internal to the chip itself, or somewhere else externally, else the product won’t be all that good, even in the short term…)
You focus on electronics while it is about other appliences too where electronics is only small part of.
“while it is about other appliences too where electronics is only small part of.” is part of my point.
Generalizing right to repair is a minefield of edge cases.
There is plenty of legitimate reasons to limit/prevent end user “repair” in certain applications.
Meanwhile in a lot of other applications there is legitimate reasons to require that manufacturers provide proper repair documentation and spare parts.
It is a nuanced field where one can make some generalizations and put up basic requirements and logical exceptions.
But unforeseen legal consequences is quite expected if one forgets how nuanced the topic at hand is.
Right to repair is a good thing as far as the general spirit of it is concerned. But implementing it won’t be remotely trivial.
Totally agree, just give the repair instructions! If you need to replace the cpu then a new main board is also a repair, if it’s the power management then there is no secrets there, just spill the beans!
And spare parts should also be a profitable business, there should for most parts be no issues to have double margin on spares and still they should be an economic choice for the customer, and better margin for the company.
Sure, a new device is a bigger chunk of money, probably a bigger amount even if at lower margins. But there is also no guarantee that the customer will stay with the brand, especially considering that their device just broke!
Basic repair documentation goes a really long way.
However, the spare parts side of things is more debatable.
I won’t complain that most electronics manufacturers don’t provide component level spare parts. Assembly level is quite decent.
Though, depends on the component/assembly. Individual resistors and other such jelly bean parts is silly. But likewise is a large assembly silly if a smaller part is the culprit. (If one needs a new speaker for a laptop it is silly to get half the case.)
A list of what components is used where and where one can source them from is honestly quite sufficient for the vast majority of repairs.
Outside the electronics industry, keeping more legitimate spare parts makes more sense. Since the finer nuances of most mechanical assemblies tends to be a bit custom for the product.
But in the end.
What is and isn’t applicable/acceptable spare parts for a manufacturer to have on hand and for how long is honestly very debatable and varies a lot depending on the type of product.
I’m not sure a bunch of heavy handed laws hobbling the companies and requiring them to fund and maintain a whole repair industry is the right way to go about this. They will have to increase prices significantly to pay for all of the additional costs.
Perhaps a better solution is to actually enforce patent laws in a rational way. The entire point of patents is to motivate inventors to share their designs with the general public, by giving them temporary exclusive rights in exchange. If the format of those patents is not easily readable and understandable to the general public, the inventors are violating their side of the contract. So instead of legally requiring them to create and maintain a massive and expensive repair industry, actually enforce the intent of patent law. If you invent something but fail to publish sufficiently detailed information on its function and operation, you lose your patent and it goes into the public domain. This could be significantly improved with some mild patent law reform. If you aren’t taking advantage of some part of your patent, make it expire early. If there is significant demand for a particular part that falls under your patent, but you choose not to at least try to meet that demand by producing and offering that part independently, you lose your patent protection for that specific part. This doesn’t mean you lose it for the entire product, if that is protected independently of that part, but it does mean that anyone can produce and sell that specific part. Of course, if you don’t produce and sell any of the parts of your product independently, that technically means that others can produce and sell all of the parts needed to produce the entire product. It might not be legal for other businesses to put it all together and sell the finished product, it that would make it legal for consumers to buy all of the parts themselves and assemble the product for their own personal use, and it would even make it legal for other businesses to sell full kits of all of the parts, as long as they are not assembled into the final product. If you don’t like that, then you produce and sell at least some of the patented parts independently yourself, so that you keep the patent rights.
In practice, this would basically force patent holders to a) produce and publish freely available full product design and draft documents (which should already exist as part of the patent paperwork and is only extra work if you are cutting corners on the patent), that are easily readable and understandable by normal people (at least to the degree that they have basic education in the domains of the various elements) and b) produce and sell patented parts independently from the final product they are used in. If they fail to do this, their lose their patent protection for the thing in question and anyone can legally produce and sell it. If you don’t respect the law, it doesn’t respect you.
(Maybe anti-DRM laws would be a good thing though. That would actually significantly decrease costs for most companies engaging in it, and the truth is, most DRM gets broken within weeks anyway, so it’s basically just a sunk cost.)
Of the last 5 portable devices I’ve had to repair (my own), 5 of them the permanently attached battery that was failing… Inbuilt obsolescence..
The real trouble is they can use custom batteries (internally), that you simply can’t get the right one (size). I’ve taken to using my dremel and putting the next biggest generic one in I can find..
Having everything with easily replaceable batteries would be the number 1 thing to do to stop otherwise working products being thrown out.
This isn’t a problem of deliberately making things repairable though. Manufacturers have access to a wider range of components than consumers do. This is really annoying, but there are practical reasons for it. What we need here is better standardization. Better standardization will increase mass production of the standard components. That will make them cheaper, creating an incentive for designers to use them. Batteries were once very highly standardized, but we are in a period of innovation right now, where there has been a lot of advances but there hasn’t been much progress toward standardization, because we are still learning the capabilities and limitations of the technology.
What would be nice, is if designers would leave a little bit of extra flex room inside of cases for things like future replacements and modifications. It would also be nice if companies that ordered custom batteries would also maintain some overstock and sell it to their customers for device maintenance. Yeah, it might not be as profitable as selling them a full new device, but it’s way more profitable than losing the sale entirely when they get frustrated and decide to buy their replacement from a competitor (something I’ve personally done).
I think part of the problem is the obsession with ever smaller devices. And this isn’t a consumer problem either. Modern devices are plenty small for the vast majority of people. Some are too slim, in fact. More recent iPhones are so thin that they flex significantly, and that makes it much easier to accidentally crack the screen (this actually happened to my sister-in-law). The problem is that the companies are obsessed with shrinking the devices as much as possible, and that requires very highly customized batteries, which are not and will not ever be standardized. A couple of extra millimeters would make all of the difference in most cases, and that’s not a problem for the vast majority of people. And, if you put “Easily Replaceable Battery” on the front of the box, a lot of people would happily accept the extra thickness, even though most cell phones get replaced within a year or two, so it would never actually matter for the vast majority of people!
(What I hate the most is batteries soldered directly to the board. That makes it quite dangerous to try to replace them. If they are connected through direct soldered wires, I can deal with that. But contacts going out of the package and then immediately to a solder joint with the board? That’s a disaster waiting to happen, when someone less knowledgeable decides to replace it without taking a ton of safety precautions.)
Standardization won’t meant parts will be available for consumers.
You can standardize to have batteries in one quarter increments of the AA size, and it won’t mean anyone will actually bother making a 3/4 AA size battery for you, because the demand would probably be so small that it wouldn’t be profitable.
And as far as batteries soldered directly on board goes – corrosion is a pain in the A**!! You won’t believe how many products fail because the spring tension on the battery clip in some cases wasn’t enough, or the material was made out of chinesium that got corroded two years down the line. Spot welding a nickel strip just makes sure it won’t fail.
From personal experience. I think such rules should also include a clause enabling data recovery as well. Just because a device is allegedly connected doesn’t mean that all necessary data is backed up or worse the lack of data on the replacement may be seen as the up to date version.
I think it’s funny that they quote several times “Washers and dryers” along with refrigerators. You can buy almost every part for those machines. They are easily repairable.
I’m all for You Own it So You are allowed to repair it. The whole, if you try to repair it, you violate some B.S. terms of services is total crap.
But forcing manufacturers to support your desire to repair something is beyond what I call acceptable. It’s their choice in how to make something. The primary reason they make it the way they do is because it makes the device cheaper. It’s cheaper to glue 2 halves of a plastic shell together than it is to provide screws so that you can take it apart and put it back together. Same with all the million little choices they make that inevitably makes it more difficult to repair. Second to that, forcing them to create a whole outward facing customer support service that will aid you in your repair is huge amounts of money. Tech manuals being the primary example.
One could argue that companies like Google, Samsung and Apple should each have a few billion dollars to spare for a good cause, other than satisfying their shareholders…
Agreed. A good ol’ ‘You should burden unfair for my good intention because you can bear it’ approach.
Schematic, layout and firmware in form of a binary blob. That’s the bare minimum. Fight me!
And revision history.
“Producers shall ensure that independent repairers have access to spare parts and repair-related information and tools” yes, like it happened for 3rd party automotive repair shop, no problem, pay us and we’ll grant you access the official diagnostic tool sw and wiring diagrams, so that you can repair yourself, if still worths it
What we need are some ethics laws for the money-grubbing CEOs trying to maximize shareholder revenue thru shady and dishonest policies (including paying their workers a pittance).
Wait, we tried that with the legislators and that didn’t work either. The CEOs paid them off.
@Dude: I too have noticed very few of the younger ones have any electo-mechanical skills nor the desire to gain them. But perhaps that’s because the usefulness of such skills are naught because _nothing is repairable_. Vicious circle.
Apples problem is they are not trading on their technical merits. They are trading on their perception as premium ‘lifestyle’ devices. So they are going to be copied and faked. Same reason nVidia has locked firmware, scammers would be reselling 3050 as 4090 because the average consumer would not know the difference.
The lockouts and serial numbers prevent fake Apple products. It might be better to just have a splash screen that says ‘refurbished’ when you turn it on or wake it from sleep than remove functionality.
The problem is that this sort of law has some effect on larger companies like phone and car companies, but it has very damaging effects on smaller companies. If you own a company making niche products that are high value and use very specific knowledge in design, having to hand over even test documents lets a good engineer understand enough to reverse it. Having to supply boards and parts means you’re a) having to incur additional cost and stock contro and b) having to then fix stuff that some tinkerer has faffed with can lead to so much additional testing and refurb cost that it’s not worth making in the first place. As someone involved in such products, and having seen customers return things they’ve had a stab at fixing themselves and screwed up, it was almost always cheaper for us to just replace it with new than spend time setting up a diagnosis, figuring the right repair out, re-testing the performance etc. And we’d do that even with molested ones because bad reputation is hard to wash off – no-one says “Ï screwed this up” when they tell their friendls “they refused to fix my X”As a technically very capable consumer with a broken tumble drier, of course I want the schems and parts to be available freely as I can repair it, as a manufacturer (and knowing the range of customer ability) I’d rather not.
Even when you have a repair information, the quality of the information can be very poor. Last year, I repaired a domestic American brand of fridge for a friend and the troubleshooting chart provided led me down the garden path so that I bought a bunch of expensive non-returnable parts (that might be the cause of the problem but maybe not), before I replaced the right part, that fixed the problem. The total cost of parts was about $400.00 which was about half the cost of the fridge. I’m sure that the company intentionally created the troubleshooting chart in such a way that the unnecessary parts would be purchased.
Now all electronic goods are made in china its obvious the chinese want to sell new products so don’t supply spare parts its not just electronics thstscthrow away but modern cars are often so poorly made that they are not repaired if you have an accident 40 years ago I had a marina van when it wad involved in an accident a new body part was fitted the same with a cavalier which was repaired when some one crashed into it 20 years ago I had a rover 25 which was throw away quality when some one crashed into it the insurance company write it off as they said the car was such poor quality no wonder rover went bust
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