iFixit co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens has revealed how companies including Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have manipulated their product designs and supply chains to keep consumers and third-party repairers out have access to the tools and parts needed to repair products such as smartphones and laptops.
Speaking during a Productivity Commission virtual hearing on Monday, July 19, Weins laid out concrete examples of how some big tech companies are preventing consumers from having the right to fix things. cure.
“We’ve seen manufacturers restrict our ability to buy parts. There’s a German battery manufacturer called Varta that sells batteries to many companies. Samsung happens to use these batteries in its ears. listen to their Galaxy… But when we go to Varta and say can we buy that part as a repair part, they say: ‘No, our contract with Samsung won’t allow it. allow us to sell that part.’ And we’re seeing that growing.” he said.
Users should have the right to self-repair or third-party replacement of the devices they purchase.
“Apple is famous for doing this with the chips in their computers. There’s a specific charging chip on the MacBook Pro… there’s a standard version of this part and then there’s Apple’s version for that. the part was very lightly modified, but it was tweaked enough to only work in this line of computers, and the company that made it, once again, complied with Apple’s contractual requirements.”
He went on to highlight that a California-based recycling company has been contracted by Apple to recycle replacement parts that are still in new condition.
“California Apple stops servicing after seven years, so after seven years Apple has a stockpile full of spare parts. But instead of selling them to the market – to someone like me, or someone who eagerly waits to buy them. – then they pay to destroy it all”, Wiens said.
The CEO is also not afraid to point to an example involving a Microsoft Surface laptop.
“iFixit usually rates products on a repairability scale, we usually rate products from 1 to 10. But the Surface laptop gets a score of 0. It has a glued battery… us actually had to cut and destroy it in order to get deeper into the product,” he said.
When asked if 3D-printed parts could be a potential way to repair products, Wiens conceded that while it could be a solution, it wouldn’t be a practical solution for problems. products based on high technology.
“3D printing is a great idea…we have several 3D-printed models on iFixit…unfortunately, in analyzing the parts, we realized only about 2% of all the sets. parts can be 3D printed using current technology”.
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Another key point that was also raised during the Performance Commission’s public hearing was whether it was reasonable to put a repair index sticker program on products, like other programs. the program is implemented in France, in Australia or not.
Introduced earlier this year, the French repair index is designed to encourage manufacturers to display clear information about the repairability of their products. It currently applies to five product categories including: Smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines and lawn mowers.
Based on his observations, Weins said adoption of the index in France has become “fairly common” across all five product categories. He also pointed out that a recent survey by Samsung found that 86% of French citizens say that this indicator influences their purchasing behavior, while 80% say they would give up their favorite brand. yourself for a product that is easier to repair.
He said: “This is really driving consumer behavior dramatically.”
“We know from experience, particularly with the water and energy labeling program, that if you want manufacturers to improve the quality of their products, start by evaluating and rating them.” CHOICE director of campaigns and communications, Erin Turner, also said during the hearing.
“Consumers would actually benefit from a program that rates and rates products for durability and repairability. It would be even better if that rating was turned into a piece of publicly available information. declaration: A label that allows them to see information when comparing products against each other”, she added.
“Over time, we expect manufacturers to compete in this area, where they see durability and repairability as factors that influence consumer product decisions.”
If such a labeling scheme exists, Ms. Turner suggested, one of the first product areas where it could be applied would be the right to repair technical electronic products.