Friday, 14 December 2018

Right to repair

The concept is very simple: if you purchase a product you (or your designated agent) should have the right to repair that product without having to go back to the original supplier or “certified” dealer/repair center.

This is a situation well known to Apple product users. For years Apple has been forcing its customers to only use Apple service centers and certified (i.e. expensive) parts. You can’t even replace the battery in your iPhone yourself. And if you crack a screen? Might as well buy a new phone for what Apple will charge to repair it.

There was a major push driven by the farming community a few years ago about the proprietary restrictions put on farm equipment, preventing farmers (probably the most self-sufficient community out there) from working on their own tractors. They don’t usually break down between 9 and 5 during the week. More likely it’s going to be midnight Friday after a long day in the fields and losing a weekend during harvest is not an option.

And there are countless examples of other manufacturers doing the same, all in the name of maximizing profits.

With the number of electronic components in modern products, some of that makes sense. For example, do you really want your local backyard mechanic reprogramming a safety module such as your ABS system? Probably not. But replacing a phone battery? C’mon.

And some of it makes no sense whatsoever. Right after I got my 2018 Silverado I started looking for a second set of wheels for snow tires. Luckily I found a set from the identical vehicle where the owner had upgraded his rims. They even had the original tire pressure sensors. So I put the snows on the wheels, put the wheels on the truck, and discovered that the tire sensors have to be “reprogrammed” to my specific vehicle. And (go figure) only the dealer has the equipment to do that highly technical and important task.

Now I have no idea what the dealer will charge for that service, whether it’s $5 a wheel or $50. And it’s really not important as my low-cost solution was to put a bit of black tape on the dash display to cover the blinking light, and check tire pressures by eye, as we did for decades before the auto industry decided we were all incompetent morons who needed idiot lights on top of idiot lights to protect ourselves from certain doom. (I swear this truck has an idiot light to tell me when another idiot light isn’t working.)

This is, simply, nuts! There is absolutely no need for this other than it forces buyers back into the arms of the dealership and, in the process, undercuts the small operators who generally offer better customer service at much lower rates.

Fortunately there are at least some tentative steps being taken by governments to implement right to repair legislation to limit and eventually eliminate the practice. The US seems to be slightly ahead of Canada (and behind Europe) in that regard, but the manufacturers’ lobby has deep pockets ($$$) and, therefore, a lot of influence in the halls of power. But it will come – it must.


  1. Don't worry, by the time TRump's done, there won't be any safety or environmental equipment on vehicles. It'll be like driving '50s rigs again!

    1. Quite possibly. Can't wait for the foot-operated hi-beam controller and 3-on-the-tree shifting to come back.

  2. I picked up aftermarket sensors at the tire store and they cloned them to the original sensors so no reprogramming needed when swapping between wheel/tire sets.

    1. I didn't know that was an option. At least the place where I got my tires never mentioned it. Too late now tho.

  3. Same problem David. My digital camera packed up and I was forced to use an authorised repair centre in NZ which cost me around NZ$500. I went ballistic when I subsequently found the genuine parts were available from Alibaba for US$75. The response from Sony NZ boiled down to "tough luck". Will never deal with them again.

    And a non-PC Merry Christmas to you!

    1. They know when they've got you Geoff.

      And a Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. I expect yours will be a wee bit warmer than ours tho.


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