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Right to Repair

  • 22 Jul 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Right to Repair, E-Waste, Committee on Right to Repair

For Mains: Environmental impact of E-Waste, Scope of Right to Repair, how to counter companies growing monopoly, Government initiatives

Why in News?

Recently, the Department of Consumer Affairs announced that it has set up a committee chaired by Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary to develop a comprehensive framework on 'Right to Repair'.

What do we need to know about Right to Repair?

  • About:
    • The Right to Repair refers to government legislation that is intended to allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services.
      • When customers buy a product, it is inherent that they must own it completely, for which the consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs.
    • The idea originally originated from the USA where the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act 2012, required the manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles.
  • Proposed Framework:
    • Under this regulatory framework, it would be mandatory for manufacturers to share their product details with customers so that they can either repair them by self or by third parties, rather than depending on original manufacturers.
    • The law also aims to help harmonise the trade between the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and third-party buyers and sellers, thus also creating new jobs.
  • Global Status:
    • The right to repair has been recognised in many countries across the globe, including the US, UK and European Union.
    • In the US, the Federal Trade Commission has directed manufacturers to remedy unfair anti-competitive practices and asked them to make sure that consumers can make repairs, either themselves or by a third-party agency.
  • Benefits:
    • This will help boost business for small repair shops, which are an important part of local economies.
    • It will help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste (e-waste) that piles up each year on the continent.
    • It will save consumers’ money.
    • It will contribute to circular economy objectives by improving the life span, maintenance, re-use, upgrade, recyclability and waste handling of appliances.
  • Proposed Sectors for Implementation:
    • Farming equipment
    • Mobile phones/ tablets
    • Consumer durables
    • Automobiles/automobile equipment

Why do we need the Right to Repair?

  • Generally, manufacturers retain proprietary control over spare parts, including their design, this kind of monopoly on repair processes infringes the customer's "Right to Choose".
  • Warranty cards of several products mention that getting them repaired from an outfit not recognised by the makers would lead to customers losing their warranty benefit.
  • Companies also tend to avoid the publications of manuals that can help users make repairs easily.
  • The technical service/product companies do not provide complete knowledge and access to manuals, schematics, and software updates.
  • Manufacturers are encouraging a culture of “planned obsolescence”.
    • This is a system whereby the design of any gadget is such that it lasts a particular time only and after that particular period it has to be mandatorily replaced.
    • A product that cannot be repaired or falls under planned obsolescence i.e. designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, not only becomes e-waste but also forces the consumers to buy new products for want of any repair to reuse it.
  • India has recently launched the concept of LiFE movement (Lifestyle for Environment) in India.
    • This includes the concept of reuse and recycling various consumer products.
    • Right to Repair will assist in achieving the targets under LiFE.

Way Forward

  • The parts and tools to service devices, including diagnostic tools should be made available to third parties, including individuals so that the product can be repaired in case of minor glitches.
  • Right to Repair law could be especially valuable in a country like India, where service networks are often spotty and authorised workshops are few and far between in the hinterland.
  • India’s informal repair sector does a good job with the repairing work.
    • But the quality of repair and maintenance services could improve substantially if such legislation was adopted.

Source: TH

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