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The Week in Repair: April 3 - 9
Google partners with iFixit for Pixel replacement parts. Filibuster kills agricultural right to repair in Nebraska.Also: right to repair for bionic body parts?
Here are the top right to repair stories from the week of April 3 through April 9.
Google has become the latest major electronics manufacturer to announce that it will sell some smartphone repair parts to consumers, meaning many of the largest companies in the world have at least partially reversed course on right to repair. Google says that, like Samsung, it will partner with iFixit to sell repair parts to consumers.
“If we’re going to build a sustainable electronics industry, consumers must have options to repair products themselves. Google is making repair more affordable and accessible, even in places without repair shops. We are committed to enabling repairs at a place and time of your choosing,” said iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. (vice.com)
Nebraska was within a whisker of becoming a leader in the right to repair movement, as an agricultural right to repair bill made it to the floor of the Nebraska state Senate on Thursday for debate. In the end, however, it wasn’t to be. A filibuster orchestrated by opponents of Sen. Tom Brandt’s (Plymouth) Agricultural Equipment Right-To-Repair Act killed what could have been the first of its kind to reach a governor's desk.
LB 543 would have provided farmers and independent mechanics with access to software, parts and other necessary repair materials for farm equipment. It earned support from numerous agriculture and repair advocacy groups, including the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Nebraska Farmers Union, U.S. PIRG and the Repair Association. Equipment manufacturers and dealers staunchly opposed the bill.
“We believe that we had the votes to pass LB543 if the opposition had not filibustered the bill. Despite all of the progress we made, we can’t dispute that this was a tough loss for the farmers that need Right to Repair...Farmers in the Cornhusker state may have to do more of their husking the old-fashioned way while they wait for repairs on their modern equipment. We can all 'thank' industry lobbyists, who kept Nebraskan food producers from being able to fix their own stuff,” said U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair Campaign Director Kevin O’Reilly. (US PIRG)
Apple Insider reports that the European Union has taken a further step toward implementing Right to Repair laws, with the latest vote backing proposals regarding repairability, and adding a requirement that manufacturers increase the warranty periods.
Proposals for Right to Repair legislation have been working through the EU's political process since 2020, but a major element has now passed a plenary vote.
According to Public Affairs Brussels, the European Parliament voted 509 in favor, with three against, and 13 abstentions, to adopt the European Commission's proposal and make it an EU key initiative for 2022 (appleinsider.com)
Apple last year announced a new “Self Service Repair” program, which for the first time would allow consumers to buy parts of iPhone, iPad, and other Apple products to repair them themselves at home. While the company had promised that the program would be launched earlier this year in the US, we haven’t heard about it since November 2021 – so what happened? Is it still coming?
The reasons why Apple hasn’t yet launched the Self Service Repair program are unknown, but there are some hints that indicate that the company still has plans to introduce it at some point.
For instance, some users have noticed that there’s an option to order “replacement parts” for the Apple Watch within the Apple Support app (although it only redirects the user to speak to an Apple advisor). The article published on the Apple Newsroom website is still there with the statement that the program “will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022.” (9to5mac.com)
See also: “Apple promised us a repair program. Where the hell is it?” (Reviewgeek.com)
The relatively young right to repair movement has typically concerned itself only with consumer electronics, not the medical devices that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and similar agencies around the world. And medical regulators aren’t yet on the repair bandwagon. As it stands, it requires voluntary efforts of device-makers themselves to ensure repairability.
One example is the company Coclear Limited, a medical device company that implanted its first cochlear implant for severe hearing loss in Australia in 1982 and won the first FDA approval for such an implant in 1985. Cochlear implants are classified as a neurotechnology because the electrodes implanted in the inner ear interface with the nerves; the implanted portion of the system remains in place permanently, while the sound processor that's worn externally is regularly upgraded. The company therefore has 40 years of experience with device obsolescence, support, and upgrades. (ieee.org)
Antitrust is not a topic most people associate with “fun,” but the Massachusetts Democrat’s passion for it is entirely believable. It’s not just the excitement and earnestness with which she talks about competition laws and how to change them; it’s also the fact that she has been talking about it for years. Longer, in fact, than many of the politicians who talk about it now.
Bankrolled their own advocacy groups
Made personal appeals to policymakers – Sen. Ted Cruz said that Apple CEO Tim Cook personally called him about the Open App Markets Act the night before it was voted out of the Judiciary committee (Cruz voted for the bill to advance). (vox.com)
Put simply, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) is the latest set of dos and don’ts for companies operating in the digital market across the European Union. Like the General Data Protection Regulation, these rules try to limit the market power of the big online platforms that it dubs “gatekeepers”.
The DMA’s plan to force the biggest and most influential tech companies to let their users use other apps and services on their platforms. So someone with an Apple device could go somewhere other than the App Store — where developers pay a fee to the manufacturer — to download an app. With that, competition between apps from independent developers and Apple’s own is actually competitive. New entrants and underdogs will be able to make much more significant headway and play on a theoretically more even field with the tech giants. (digiday.com)
Apple’s latest iPad Air, released last month, contains changes that should make the device easier to repair, according to iFixit.
While previous iPad Air offerings had their batteries firmly fixed into place, the new iPad Airs feature a simple pull tabs that can be used to remove and replace the Lithium Ion batteries. Previous iPad Airs had batteries that were glued in place and could only be removed using solvents to dissolve the glue. That's something that makes them much easier to replace without the need for chemicals and a lot of mess. (cultofmac.com)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz told a gathering of auto repair industry executives on March 29 that he strongly supported the right to repair and signaled he could support a proposed federal right to repair bill, the REPAIR Act, which was introduced in the U.S. House in February.
The comments were just the latest evidence that right to repair legislation enjoys support on both sides of the aisle in a divided Washington D.C.
Asked for his feelings about the ability of car owners to repair their own vehicles or take them to independent garages, Cruz responded that he “strongly support[s] the right to repair your own vehicle, your own car, your own truck…and get whoever you want to repair it,” according to a story in Autobodynews.com.
Asked about the REPAIR Act, Cruz was more circumspect, saying he needed to look more closely at the details of the legislation. But that he was “happy to commit to working with [the industry] to address the issue in a way that makes sense and ensure that people have the right to make their own repair decisions.” (Autobodynews.com)
Four equipment dealer associations have voted to merge their operations, effective July 1, 2022. The combined association, named the North American Equipment Dealers Association (NAEDA), will represent 3,000 dealers in 24 U.S. states and nine provinces in Canada.
"One [issue] that's huge right now, and it's in the news all the time is right to repair," said Rominger...Issues surrounding code modifications, getting access to proprietary computer code in the machines "get a little touchy," Rominger said. “Equipment owners often want to modify and bypass some of the environmental features that are mandated by federal law, to have increased performance of the unit and or bypass some of the safety features that are a nuisance for them." (Progressive Farmer)
Other Repair News...
EU to promote repair don’t replace, ban greenwashing (globalcosmeticsnews.com)
iFixit Alum takes repair to new heights (iFixit.com)
Economic Liberties Releases Model Legislation to Stop Monopoly Price Hikes (economicliberties.us)