The Sunday Edition

Why some people are fighting for the right to repair our broken products

Why is it that when cellphones, laptop computers, washing machines, printers — even large equipment like tractors — break down, it's more expensive to repair them than to replace them?
When devices like our phones break, it can be more expensive to fix them than get a new one. But some people are working to change that. (Martin Diotte/CBC)
Listen17:51

Why is it that when cellphones, laptop computers, washing machines, printers — even large equipment like tractors — break down, it's more expensive to repair them than to replace them?

According to the advocacy group OpenMedia, it's because manufacturers want it that way.

The result is consumer frustration — and expense — and it's creating an environmental nightmare. The world is littered with mountains of moribund products.

But Canadian consumers want change, according to a recent Innovative Research Group poll. Seventy-six per cent of respondents said they had thrown out devices that could have been repaired. Seventy-five per cent of people surveyed said they support "right to repair" legislation that would make it easier to fix devices.

Right to repair bills have been introduced in Ontario and Quebec, and 12,000 people have signed an OpenMedia petition calling for the right to repair devices and machines on their own.

Laura Tribe, OpenMedia's executive director, said consumers "want to have access to the tools to do it ourselves," so that "when we buy a device, we can continue to own it, maintain it, and take care of it in a way that works for us."

While she said companies "absolutely" have the right to protect their intellectual property rights, "that doesn't change what we're trying to do, which is fix a battery or a cracked screen on a phone."


Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

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