' Jennifer Huseby | MTTLR

Cars, Smartphones and Waste: Fighting for the Right to Repair in 2019

Massachusetts is a hot battleground for Right to Repair movements – first for cars, and now for smartphones. Right to Repair legislation advocates for consumers to be allowed the access, information and materials that they and third party repair shops require in order to fix their broken-down products. But unlike in the case study of automobiles, the Right to Repair movement for electronic devices may face a grisly demise because of the big bad bogeyman: cybersecurity. Right to repair is a huge deal. Tech giants want consumers to keep buying the newest gadget, since their CEOs blame the repair and reuse of older models for deficient bottom lines. And in a world where consumers trash a functional phone because of a spiderweb crack in the corner, electronic waste (“e-waste”) is a rapidly growing threat. E-waste accounted for a waste stream of 50 million tons in 2018 and is projected to reach at least 120 million tons by 2050. Moreover, e-waste isn’t biodegradable. And due to the prevalence of toxic materials like lead, the disposal of e-waste often causes severe health hazards for countries like the Republic of South Africa that are forced to bear these human and economic costs. Advocates of Right to Repair cite multiple other reasons to be allowed the resources necessary to fix their own devices. Predominantly, most feel that fixing electronics is a free market issue. Their rationale is that manufacturers shouldn’t be able to charge exorbitant prices for issues that can be fixed by third party repair shops that can do the same job but at a cheaper price, and faster as well. This...