When you don’t like a product, or how a company behaves, sometimes you can vote with your dollars. Do businesses with their competitors -- make companies compete for the best product on the most favorable terms.
We often hear this as a reason that Right to Repair reforms are not necessary. If you don’t want to buy an unfixable device, vote with your dollars, and get something else.
But is “Just buy a different product” always a rational argument for solving problems with how companies conduct their business?
If only it were that simple. Sometimes, all the choices are bad.
Thousands of manufacturers are doing the same thing at the same time -- blocking access to any and all independent repair. It is unlikely that federal regulators will pursue each of these companies one by one to crack the whip on their questionable practices.
For example, the FTC warned six companies last April that placing “Void Warranty if Removed” stickers on products was a blatant violation of federal warranty law. A few months later, U.S. PIRG surveyed 50 other companies to check for similar violations … and found 45 of those companies also voided warranties for independent repair even after the FTC warning.
When all, or nearly all, the companies behave the same way, there is no practical way for us to buy more wisely. Our options have evaporated.
Repair monopolies are now pervasive. Many industries lack any repair-friendly options. Even if you want to shop for products with repair in mind, consumers cannot find enough information on those policies pre-purchase to make an informed decision. We’ve been charting terms and conditions in common EULA for common products like cell phones, tractors, TVS and computers-- and finding that roughly half the time --we can’t even find a document to review.
Despite the appearance of competition on the front end, the back end is monopolized -- and it’s no longer a free market. We’ve lost control of the useful life of our purchases and our relationships with our property is altered. Monopolies are being favored over competition at every turn.
We buy things we don’t own, but pay in full ...
We sign away our rights to use those things in agreements we cannot see beforehand ...
We cannot fix our things outside of the narrow rules set by the manufacturer ...
We cannot resell our things in an open market …
… Then we’re told we should just pick a different product in the first place.
Right to Repair is all about unlocking monopolies and re-asserting the power of the free market. It’s not something that consumers can do on their own. The standard for unlocking monopolies should be higher than just a flippant “Buy Something Else’. Right to Repair is essential legislation to restore the free market.