Centuries of cultivating the culture of consumerism and sale of mass manufactured products means the concept of individual property ownership has spread through the world. When something is bought or sold, it is seen as being with the new ‘owners’ and ‘ownership’ should come with an implicit bundle of rights including the ability to repair something should it come to its demise or just partial dysfunction. Yet companies, in a bid to continue selling their products as the penetration of their products reach saturation point in the market introduced the concept of planned obsolescence.
And of course, that’s wastage. Deliberate wastage for the sake of commercialism; though of course, shorter lifecycles of products may mean greater innovation. Because every innovation needs adoption to provide the resources for it to sustain. The momentum of the Right to Repair is thus going meet more resistance across time even as it is gaining more following.
The main reason for the current momentum is that consumers are no longer keeping up with the ability to keep upgrading. There are people left behind in the upgrading frenzy – limited by either digital/tech literacy or financial capacity to upgrade. But that may change when these bottlenecks are solved, either through getting back oomph in our economy or having more attractive and intuitive products easy for demographics who were previously excluded.
So enshrining the principle of the right to repair into the legal system and setting it as a context/backdrop for companies to compete and innovate is important. It is important for the environment, for the values around environmental stewardship and waste reduction. And above all, it helps to at least address the power imbalance between consumers and producers. At least for a while to come.