American News Apr 22, 2021 11:16 PM EST

Pro-consumer 'Right to Repair' movement gains steam as independent tech YouTubers take on Big Tech

Influential figures like Louis Rossmann and Linus Tech Tips embarked on a widespread advocacy campaign to win over the public.

Pro-consumer 'Right to Repair' movement gains steam as independent tech YouTubers take on Big Tech
Ian Miles Cheong Montreal, QC
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The so-called "Right to Repair" is not about forcing manufacturers to repair broken goods. Rather, it focuses on the freedom of choice for an individual to fix things themselves, or pay to have someone else do it for them--options severely limited by Big Tech companies like Apple, which limit these options or charge exorbitant fees to users who do not opt-in for their paid after-sales subscription services.

At the end of March 2021, Tech YouTuber Louis Rossmann launched a GoFundMe campaign to push for Right to Repair to be put on the ballot and potentially voted into law.

The page describes the problem with tech right now:

“Right to Repair is the concept that you should be able to choose who repairs the device you own. We believe you should not be stuck going back to the manufacturer or dealer because parts, chips, manuals or tools are restricted by the manufacturer. Right now, manufacturers collude with a number of companies on a regular basis to keep repair shops & end users from being able to buy parts to fix their devices, going so far as to restrict access to a battery charging IC - one of the most common chips to fail in modern consumer electronics!”

The effort is gaining steam in the public sphere. Right to Repair is about “improving consumer choice and freedom,” says YouTuber Linus Tech Tips in a call to action video.

The Canadian tech YouTuber, Linus Sebastian, explains that modern technology devices such as Apple’s iPhone (which the video is mostly centered on) are locked down with roadblocks designed to prevent third-party repair shops from fixing broken items. Something like screen repair. Linus makes a distinction between that and being able to build an entire iPhone (or other device) from third-party parts. He points to the automobile market’s freedom to make repairs on vehicles as an example justifying Right to Repair.

He brings up how Apple’s repair system is cost-heavy.  It’s hypothetically supposed to be cheaper to get an “official” technician to repair a broken iPhone and replace parts. But the several hundred dollar price point makes buying a new phone seem more compelling.

Issues over things like battery repair landed Apple in hot water in the past. In addition to that, security chips in Macs required running a “proprietary diagnostic tool” in order to work.

The expensive nature of repairs, Linus says, is what leads to the environmental waste potential on the part of companies like Apple who claim to prioritize eco-friendly measures. As an aside he highlights how the industry practice of planned obsolescence is a real thing and not some myth. It was enacted after the Great Depression in order to get consumers to keep buying stuff.

The point of Rossman’s GoFundMe campaign is to ensure that Right to Repair makes it past Washington DC’s web of lawmakers and lobbyists that tech companies might have in their pocket.

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