Should Customers Have the Right to Repair?

Customer expectations continue to increase – companies like Amazon, Uber and Zappos have cultivated an on-demand mindset where customers expect what they want to arrive when they want it – and all for a reasonable price. This attitude is no different when it comes to service. When equipment is down, regardless if it is a personal iPhone or a multi-million dollar piece of construction equipment, customers want to make the repair quickly, efficiently and cost effectively. The customer has more control than ever, and this mentality has resulted in Right to Repair bills appearing in legislatures around the world. But, what is Right to Repair and how can manufacturers stay ahead?

What are Right to Repair laws?

Right to Repair laws aim to require manufacturers to sell replacement parts and repair tools to the general public and independent repair companies.

Right to Repair legislation has now appeared in 18 U.S. states, and is mostly centered around Apple product owners wanting to repair personal devices on their own or work with an independent provider, as opposed to working directly with the manufacturer. The tech giant makes replacement parts available only to Apple Stores and to shops in its Authorized Service Provider program, and these “authorized” providers are required to pay Apple a fee and purchase replacement parts at a fixed rate.

Recently, Apple sued an independent Norwegian iPhone repair shop over refurbished, non-Apple parts – and lost. It’s clear that the tides are shifting, and manufacturers are losing some of the hold they have on replacement parts. 

What are the implications of Right to Repair laws?

The legislation would require manufacturers to “sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops” and “make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public.” Recently, farmers in Nebraska started hacking their equipment with firmware developed in Eastern Europe and available on invite-only, paid online forums – all to repair their own equipment and avoid long wait times to see a service technician, or traveling hundreds of miles to the nearest dealer to have their equipment repaired.

Right to Repair laws have surfaced because end-users feel helpless when it comes to repairing their own equipment, and these same end-users could potentially be diagnosing and making some repairs on their own – making service parts distribution and pricing look a little different and more complex.

Fast, inexpensive repairs are usually a top priority for customers, and this sometimes forces them to shop on the grey market. While many aftermarket companies buy the rights to manufacture parts from the OEM, many do not, and this leads to immediate quality and safety concerns – concerns that could ultimately negatively impact the OEM’s brand reputation. 

Which industries do Right to Repair laws affect most?

While the legislation is currently focused on high-tech and electronics, it could have a residual impact on all manufacturers with service organizations and replacement parts, including agricultural, heavy and mining equipment, where equipment is viewed as revenue-generating assets for the owner.

The automotive industry is already accustomed to Right to Repair laws. Four years ago, sweeping legislation across all 50 states gave independent car repair shops standardized access to the diagnostic tools that automakers give their franchised dealers.   

How can manufacturers minimize the impact of Right to Repair legislation on their business?

It’s clear that today’s customers expect quick, reliable service on demand and for manufacturers, this means they must optimize their after-sales service organizations. The status quo of reactive, break-fix service models is no longer sufficient, and companies must invest in human capital and new technologies to transform their businesses to become more proactive and focused on maximizing product uptime. Optimizing after-sales service operations today will help OEMs prepare for Right to Repair laws, while also improving financial performance and exceeding customers’ expectations. 

What are the best resources to stay up-to-date on the latest Right to Repair news?

  • Motherboard, a Vice publication that covers technology, the Internet and other future trends has covered Right to Repair extensively.
  • The Repair Association is leading or involved in much of the legislation across the U.S. and keeps its website updated with the latest news.
  • As always, will stay up-to-date with the latest information on Right to Repair laws and how they impact manufacturers and their after-sales service organizations.