Microsoft sides with Apple and Google to deny ‘Right to Repair’: Will ongoing pandemic tip the scale in favor of third-party repairs?

Right to Repair
Now Microsoft opposing Right to Repair? Pic credit: Skitterphoto/Pexels/CC BY-SA

Microsoft seems to have joined Apple and Google to deny the ‘Right to Repair’ movement access to relevant tools and spare parts. The Windows 10 OS maker claimed, “consumers are entitled to receive repair services that are safe and effective.”

The Right to Repair legislation has just earned yet another powerful opponent. Microsoft surprisingly sided with Apple and Google to reject the possibility of sharing relevant intel and spare parts with third-party repair services.

Apple-backed association Security Innovation Center gains Microsoft as a supporter:

The Right to Repair is a fight that many have waged against the tech giants. At the heart of the war is the right to diagnose and repair electronics.

Oftentimes buyers have to send expensive electronics to authorized repair shops. More often than not, owners discard electronics because such repairs or spare parts are prohibitively expensive or complex.

However, the Apple-backed Security Innovation Center has strongly opposed any and all pieces of legislation pertaining to the ‘Right to Repair’. Companies and their lawyers prevent owners and third-party repair shops from accessing vital information and spare parts needed to conduct repairs.

The Security Innovation Center recently informed lawmakers such legislation “would have gifted hackers with digital keys to thousands of Internet-connected products.”

David Edmonson, vice president of lobbying group TechNet, who represents Apple and Google amongst others, added: “Allowing unvetted third parties with access to sensitive diagnostic information, software, tools, and parts would jeopardize the safety and security of consumers’ devices and put consumers at risk for fraud”.

“States have continually rejected legislation like this, with 25 states alone last year deciding not to take action.”

So far, 27 states in America have either squashed proposed laws or failed to hold voting on the same. Such laws then rarely, if ever, come back up for a hearing, and slowly fade away into oblivion.

Now, Microsoft’s spokesperson has reportedly said “We believe consumers are entitled to receive repair services that are safe and effective. We provide consumers with repair services that ensure the high quality of repairs, safeguard consumer’s privacy and security, and protect consumers from injury.”

Will the pandemic help the Right to Repair movement?

It is interesting to note that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not share the opinion put forth by Apple, Google, and now Microsoft. In a recently released report, the FTC said “There is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justification for repair restrictions”.

There’s little doubt that the Right to Repair movement is facing a steep uphill battle. After all, ordinary buyers and repair shops are going against the richest and most powerful as well as influential companies. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and a few others, have very deep pockets to effectively lobby and kill off any piece of legislature that even obliquely references Right to Repair.

The ongoing pandemic, however, might just tip the balance in favor of the Right to Repair movement. The FTC stressed that “the pandemic has exacerbated the effects of repair restrictions on consumers”. Several Apple Stores have shut shop, leaving consumers stranded with non-working devices.

Considering the ongoing situation, the U.S. Government might offer a reprieve to such bereaved consumers. And, the Right to Repair might live on to fight another day.

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