Ugo Vallauri, co-founder of the Restart Project, helps to unpack the issue. This UK-based social enterprise runs regular Restart Parties where people teach each other how to repair their broken and slow devices such as tablets, toasters and iPhones.
He believes that the limitations around tech repairs, and the lack of facilities for self-repair, has been informed by major brands. ‘The only reason [manufacturers] want to limit the amount of repair – and they will never admit this – is to benefit from people throwing their products away that could otherwise be repaired,’ he states. ‘Manufacturers are doing the bare minimum and therefore the minimum is dictated by the law.’
This is why, Vallauri argues, developments in repairs legislation are crucial. In Europe, the minimum that brands currently work to it set to shift from 2021, with new laws that will necessitate 'design for disassembly' for various electrical products.
Some critics of the Right to Repair movement argue that growing success and promotion of the movement could stifle innovation and raise issues around intellectual property. Trade association Digital Europe has stated that, ‘The draft regulations limit market access, deviate from internationally-recognised best practices and compromise intellectual property.’
In my view, brands risk alienating current and future customers by perpetuating drive for newness, while law-makers gradually work to dictate their future manufacturing behaviours. Instead they should take this as an opportunity to innovate in news ways; by being sensitive to consumers’ environmental concerns and their dissatisfaction with products that are currently built to fail.
Ben Westlake is community change professional and a freelance writer on emerging technologies and innovation. For more on how technology brands' values can become fit for the future, explore our Morality Recoded macrotrend.