Australia’s consumer affairs ministers have agreed to consider right to repair laws boosting people’s ability to repair their phones and other electronic goods, rather than send them to the dump.

The ABC reports that ACT Consumer Affairs Minister Shane Rattenbury took the right to repair idea to the Consumer Affairs Forum, which includes ministers from both Australia and New Zealand, arguing a national approach to the issue was necessary.

Its all part of the emerging push for the ‘right to repair’ that have seen tough new laws in the US and Europe force manufacturers to cooperate with legitimate third-party repairers and provide specialist tools, diagnostic software and genuine parts to enable consumers to have a choice of repairer.

Right to repair
Sorry you cannot buy this special tool!

The right to repair movement aims to stop broken consumer goods ending up as e-waste.

Australia’s consumer affairs ministers must pass laws boosting peoples’ ability to repair their phones and other electronic goods, rather than send them to the dump.

For example, a smartphone battery has a re-charge cycle of between 200-500 times (depends on quality). A heavy user can exhaust that in a year. The phone is perfectly good otherwise, but you cannot use it. Outlawing non-removable batteries for a start would be a great move.

But even in Australia smartphone recyclers are forced to use ‘authorised repairers’ at exorbitant rates to replace an iPhone battery or screen because the ‘secret sauce’ is denied to them.

Rattenbury has the right idea. He said the laws would require manufacturers to make easily repairable products.

“It is about building products that can be easily disassembled, that can be opened up, the spare parts are available, and then take standard tools to repair them. They’re the sort of guarantees that we need to put into our consumer laws to enable the repair industry to continue to grow.”

You buy a car, and you expect to be able to change the tyres or get a logbook service without voiding warranty. Right?

The movement started with cars some time ago where third-party repairers won the right to do log-book services without voiding the warranty.

But this opens the doors to manufacturers denying warranty claims if they can prove the third-party repairer contributed, even minutely to the claim. The costs of using authorised dealers and genuine spare parts are many times what a local mechanic charges but you put up with that to keep warranty going.

Well, soon the Government will introduce a mandatory scheme to allow legitimate third-party repairers to access to ‘secret’ diagnostic codes, computer software, specialist tools, log-book service schedules, motor repair manuals as well as genuine parts. This scheme will provide a level playing field and allow consumers to have their vehicles safely repaired by the repairer of their choice.

But the proposed legislation does not go nearly far enough.

What about consumer electronics?

There is no’ right to repair’ during the warranty, and companies like Apple are fighting the government at every turn to keep the lucrative repair business, both in-and-out or warranty in its ‘walled garden’.

right to repair

The result – you pay $400-500 for a replacement screen or $200 for a battery. To make matter worse, you sign your rights away by taking out expensive Apple Care+ programs that, apart from covering accidental breakage, are nothing but a worthless extended warranty that the Australian Consumer Law covers anyway.

Apple says it builds them, it knows how to fix them, and that is that! iFixit says Apple incorporate unique codes on important Apple components that talk to each other creating a monopoly where only Apple can fix them.

You do not really own an Apple, just a licence to use it on its terms.

Tara Bunch, vice president of AppleCare, said in a statement that when “A customer ever needs to repair their products, we want them to feel confident those repairs are done safely and correctly.”

That is insulting and condescending to the many highly competent third-party repairers who could do just as good a job but cannot access the ‘secret sauce’ needed to repair it correctly.