2023: The Year of Major Victories for the Right to Repair Movement

The Right to Repair movement has had a successful year with bills being passed across the US and internationally. Apple even supported California’s bill and urged for a similar nationwide law. In the EU, regulators mandated the use of USB-C as a universal charging socket for most small devices, and are now focusing on anti-repair tactics. However, these victories are not total, despite being hard-won. Elizabeth Chamberlain of iFixit said it’s the strongest bill passed in the US, and one of the most comprehensive. California’s bill requires companies to sell components to owners and third-party repair shops for several years after the last model is made. However, the bill does not prevent parts pairing, which may explain why it won Apple’s backing in the first place. The EU is also looking at ways to encourage repairs and refurbishment over replacement for new gear.

Despite these wins, these provisions offer tech companies broad latitude. Apple now allows users to repair their own devices but it is still expensive and cumbersome. Similarly, the bills do nothing to prevent the company’s replacement-as-default strategy in stores, and devices like the iPhone 15 still have parts pairing. The tech industry’s goal is to sell new devices regularly, so it resists extending the life of products. While it is hoped that devices will become more repairable, people must remain vigilant and not rest upon our laurels. Despite having the right to repair, there must also be a way to actually exercise it.