Want to fix a broken phone yourself? There’s legislation for that

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      Everyone has, at some point, dropped their phone. Some are unlucky enough that it falls on the screen, leaving hairline cracks in the glass. For many, that means it’s time to get a new device—and consumers are getting tired of it.

      A new poll released by the Investigative Research Group shows that the majority of people in Canada would support legislation to make it easier and more affordable to fix electronic devices. Three-quarters of the people surveyed supported Right to Repair legislation: laws that would prohibit companies from making it deliberately difficult to fix a device themselves or pay a third-party to fix it for them, and would make information, parts, and tools necessary for repairs available to consumers and shops.

      Currently, companies like Apple, Samsung, and large electronics manufacturer John Deere use restrictive design, software locks, and warranty restrictions to control consumers’ ability to repair their own products. Instead of allowing access to replaceable components like batteries or backlights, a large number of companies require consumers to send the item back to them to be fixed.  

      Apple in particular has come under fire for its devices. Reviews of its latest AirPods, for example, suggest that the devices have poor battery life, but because the headphones are glued together, it’s impossible to separate the battery from the other components without using a knife—which means risking explosion. That compounds frustration with the company, which has openly admitted that its software updates deliberately slow down the phone’s processing components. As a result, consumers are questioning whether it is them or the company that truly owns the device.

      More than three quarters of Canadians have thrown away or replaced broken electronics because of an issue that could have been fixed, the report suggests. Over 43 percent discarded a device because of a broken or cracked screen, 42 percent for a weak or dead battery, 23 percent for a lost or broken charger, 22 percent because it stopped supporting software updates, and 20 percent because of a keyboard malfunction.

      The support for Right to Repair legislation is strong across all political affiliations, with 67 percent of Conservatives, 79 percent of Liberals, and 76 percent of New Democrats backing the proposal. Only three percent of survey participants opposed the legislation.

      “There is nothing that will increase the cost of your cell phone plan faster than having to replace your device unexpectedly,” said Rodrigo Samayoa, digital campaigner at OpenMedia. “People are tired of having to throw away phones and appliances for minor issues that could be repaired if parts were available. Our current system gives big companies too much control over the things we own. We need to rebalance the scales. The results of this survey come as no surprise. When we buy a car, we expect to be able to send it to any independent shop for maintenance, or even do it ourselves. Is it too much to ask that our electronic devices and appliances work the same way?”

      In Canada, two repair bills were tabled earlier this year. Liberal MPP Michael Coteau introduced legislation in the Ontario Provincial Parliament, and MNA Guy Ouellette introduced one in the Quebec National Assembly. While the Ontario bill has been defeated by the ruling Progressive Conservatives, the Quebec bill is still being debated by legislators.

      In both Canada and the United States, proposals for the Right to Repair have faced well-funded opposition from the electronics businesses including Apple and John Deere.

      Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays