back to article Calls for 'right to repair' electronics laws grow louder across Europe

A new report from the UK's House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) argues the country should enshrine the "right to repair" in law and reduce VAT on tech repair services, while Europe's Parliamentarians also voted to further the cause. European Parliament votes to support Right to Repair The European Parliament …

  1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Windows

    Just because...

    A computer is up in the loft does not make it waste.

    Whole corners of the internet are dedicated to running old kit and resurrecting broken machines. Especially 90s home computers (I've used such resources to get a g3 iMac running again. It's never going to be my daily machine but it's not scrap).

    But yes, modern stuff is becoming increasingly harder to fix (it's been putting me off buying a modern hifi amp again after getting my last one limping along but still largely useless as the remote is knackered and very rare).

    1. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: Just because...

      Not just computers, it's the same with cars. Some modern manufacturers have chips embedded in the sodding headlight bulbs, so you need to take it in to the dealer to have the repair done (at a significant boost to the cost) rather than buying a bloody bulb and fitting it yourself. Then they say "it's for customer safety" when challenged on the behaviour.

      I drive a 1997 Toyota Starlet*, and one of the major reasons I keep it is if it goes wrong I can bloody fix it! Most of the time. The current blown head gasket and potentially warped cylinder head / engine block might be a bit beyond my skill level. Still, I don't need a manufacturer's say-so to take it to another company to mill them flat again.

      * if that doesn't identify me to those who know me, I don't know what will

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Just because...

        But your skill level is probably at the point, if you can get the head off, of pulling the engine and getting everything else off the block, and taking the head and block somewhere for machining. And maybe the crank and/or cams as well.

        In the same way, it's not that a user is necessarily able to fix his phone, but that the phone _can be fixed_. It may take specialist equipment for some or all of the replacement parts - hell, I've been soldering stuff for forty years but I'd hesitate to desolder and replace a BGA or chip on chip package, without suitable x-ray equipment - but someone can do it and it doesn't have to be the main dealer.

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Just because...

          In the same way, it's not that a user is necessarily able to fix his phone, but that the phone _can be fixed_. It may take specialist equipment for some or all of the replacement parts - hell, I've been soldering stuff for forty years but I'd hesitate to desolder and replace a BGA or chip on chip package, without suitable x-ray equipment - but someone can do it and it doesn't have to be the main dealer.

          If you can repair a £100 item by paying an specialist with fancy equipment for a couple of hours work at £90 an hour, then it isn't going to happen.

          Equipment needs to be designed for easy repair with little equipment. Although chips don't break (its usually a connector or a capacitor), if a BGA chip is likely to need replacing then it needs to be on its own mezzanine board instead of welded onto the expensive mainboard.

          Of course, this pushes the price of the kit up, and so there needs to be something that prevents it being priced out of the market by the cheaper throwaway landfill versions.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Just because...

            But if a BGA package is mounted on a mezzanine, then you've defeated the point of the package anyway - you may as well just use something like QFN that requires more real estate.

            My point was not that that one would necessarily need to replace such a part but that such a part _could_ be replaced with the right specialist tools and equipment. Which is already the case, of course - provided that there is easy access to both the replacement part and, critically, the diagnostics to locate the fault. As others have pointed out it is far more likely to be a simple connector or decoupling capacitor or even the battery which has expired. Some faults are easy to find.

          2. LybsterRoy

            Re: Just because...

            Real life example my Asus X205TA was bricked by a W10 update. One of the options to try and sort it out was update the bios. Downloaded the latest, downloaded ASUSs s/w to install which when run emptied the chip and crashed. Result its dead Jim.

            Phoned ASUS to see if they could fit another chip - £40 to inspect and no estimate of how much fitting a replacement chip would cost. I bought an ARKA ultrabook from eBay for £100.

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: Just because...

              "...Real life example my Asus X205TA was bricked by a W10 update. One of the options to try and sort it out was update the bios. Downloaded the latest, downloaded ASUSs s/w to install which when run emptied the chip and crashed. Result its dead Jim..."

              That is pants! 2020 and they don't have a non-writable area with a recovery BIOS? I thought this was pretty bog standard since the mid-90's

              But it doesn't surprise me in the slightest - the one and only time I had an Asus laptop it was the single most unreliable piece of crap I've ever owned and they washed their hands of it whilst it was under warranty (only a few months old and had been back to them 3 times already).

              1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                Re: Just because...

                I also had been troubleshooting an Asus laptop for some friends, which would keep losing it's ability to boot from HDD & sometimes even the CD/DVD drive. Had thought perhaps UEFI was wiping the boot sector, until I figured out it was the SATA channel itself that was crap. Junk machine anyway, with even the memory soldered right to the mainboard (I guess they learned from crApple).

                Ended up sticking their old HDD into an external USB case so they could get their files. Used it as an installer test machine for a while (good for setups where you didn't need the OS for more than a day or maybe two).

          3. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: Just because...

            I think the trend towards BGAs needs to be understood in the wider context and from a designer's perspective.

            BGAs have a number of things going for them. They save physical space; for a given number of contacts, BGAs are the smallest solution. When in reflow (which is basically a multi-stage oven with different temperature zones) a BGA will actually pull itself onto the pads even if it was not precisely placed by the pick and place equipment. That cannot be said of non BGA packages which will be soldered where they are physically placed.

            Contrary to what is widely believed, BGAs are really not that difficult to remove and replace; it requires slightly more specialised equipment but it does not cost thousands (unless you expect to be doing a lot of them when the cost can get quite high).

            The use of security devices to ensure you can only buy the OEM parts is a blight on the world of electronics in many cases but absolutely necessary in others (you really wouldn't want anything safety critical to be using anything other than the part we know really works and that can include even a die revision which is something I have seen in a particular autopilot).

            When it is used to force you into using the dealer network (especially for things we used to do ourselves) it is simply wrong and needs to be clamped down on.

            When designing modern equipment, the form factor (size) is often a key for marketdroids so we are forced into very high density layouts which do require somewhat specialist equipment - try desoldering (or even seeing clearly!) a 01005 component which are now commonplace in smart phones and have been since around 2000 or so.

            As to adding a mezzanine, that introduces a connector. In electronics, about 90% of faults are connectors.

            Deliberately soldering down memory in a system that does not really require it is just taking the p*ss but there are occasions where that is a better solution.

            There are companies out there that use lock in methods to extract as much money from people as possible and it is those I avoid.

            Having a robust repairability index would be a very good start.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Just because...

          I can buy an ODBII code reader of eBay for a tenner, plug it into my car and it tells me what’s wrong with it.

          Problem is, I don’t have a 2 post lift or an engine winch.

        3. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

          Re: Just because...

          Talking of skill levels...

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Xr1bmbZ_s&t=9s

      2. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: Just because...

        If, on the other hand, you drive a modern Toyota, you can take it to an official dealership where they will replace a broken lamp with a new one for free. A similar story for puncture repairs. Life isn't all bad.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Just because...

          Never mind how long it takes, right?

      3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: Just because...

        It's easier, not harder, with modern cars. You need a decent code reader, and they'll almost always tell you what needs fixing or replacing. You can then do stuff like resets you'd normally need to go into the dealer for.

        It's 20 quid or whatever, so classed with basic tools.

        The one thing that is easier on old Toyotas is that they're generally very easy to work on, but that's because they were designed to be easy to work on, bolts are big enough not to rust up or round off, etc. But that's a deliberate design choice Toyota made in that era, not anything to do with the cars others built at the same time.

        1. My-Handle Silver badge

          Re: Just because...

          "...decent code reader..."

          A cheap code reader will indeed give you a basic OBD2 readout, but you get into much more expensive territory if you want a code reader that'll work with a car's other systems (like ABS, airbag / seatbelt and others). It gets more expensive again for Japanese cars as opposed to European. I looked at getting a reader when my other half's late-2000's Nissan threw an ABS sensor (again) and the price was not pretty.

          I totally agree with your comment on the old Toyotas. Biggest point in favour of the Starlet is that there's a hell of a lot of room under the bonnet to work. You can get almost all the way around the engine with a small ratchet. Try that with the Nissan. You can barely get a hand in to the engine bay, let alone in up to the elbow.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Just because...

            All the cars, Japanese included work with basic cheap readers for most codes, especially the important ones.

            I use them all the time on Japanese cars for data logging too.

      4. Robert D Bank

        Re: Just because...

        here's a tip about the Starlet...sometimes if the head is skimmed beyond a certain point then the studs that hold the head down can become too long...they tighten as they hit the bottom of the holes in the block, but not apply the right pressure on the head. Caught me out and had to replace the head gasket twice before someone told me about that issue and I bought the 'short studs' from 'Yota.. Right pain in the arse!

  2. PerlyKing Silver badge
    Joke

    How do they know?

    How do they know how much potentially useful kit I've got carefully archived in my attic?!

    1. H in The Hague Silver badge

      Re: How do they know?

      "How do they know how much potentially useful kit I've got carefully archived in my attic?!"

      The fact that you visit these pages is enough to suggest you do. :)

      (Note to self: must make sure my next house has an attic.)

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: How do they know?

        My current home has two at the moment (and space for me to cut holes for another two) but both are empty of vintage kit.

        The basement on the other hand.........

        Mines the vintage computer science lab coat.

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: How do they know?

          I've sold off most of my vintage computer hardware by now (except my two TI 99/4a machines, although I'd trade them for an Apple IIgs setup). Difference was I had bought them *after* their period of "usefulness" at a time when I thought of preserving vintage equipment. And they eventually went off to collectors.

          Now, if we want to talk about late-model (and not-quite-late-model) laptops, that's a different matter. If I had ever been into PC gaming, they'd be handy as "retro" gaming machines (even though the oldest machine, a T23, is only as old as a Pentium III).

    2. Marcelo Rodrigues
      Joke

      Re: How do they know?

      "How do they know how much potentially useful kit I've got carefully archived in my attic?!"

      They measured the gravitational pull of your house. Did You think You were loosing weight? It was the gravitational pull on of all that junk in your attic!

    3. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: How do they know?

      If you have 5G then they know!!!

      Plus your tinfoil hat will give you away.

  3. Dwarf Silver badge

    How we even lost the right to repair our own stuff in the first place should be the bigger issue.

    We are supposed to live in a free market, clearly we don't if we cant choose who maintains the stuff we already own.

    @Oddball - have you considered the universal remote controls - they often have all the devices listed and either have the codes or you can download them to the devices.

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      @Dwarf

      "How we even lost the right to repair our own stuff in the first place should be the bigger issue."

      Choice. People choose to buy this stuff that cannot be repaired. Arguably it is due to some of this kit being cheaper but in the case of Apple it is more expensive and still people choose to buy it. For white goods people can spend a bit more for one that can be repaired but would prefer to pay less.

      "We are supposed to live in a free market, clearly we don't if we cant choose who maintains the stuff we already own."

      That is where we do live in a free market. We have expressed preferences (want to choose who fixes my stuff) and revealed preferences which is what people actually do. It is free market which has brought this through consumer choice.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: @Dwarf

        So we choose to buy this stuff because it's cheaper ... or more expensive ... ?

        I had a fan heater. The switch went and I was quite capable of fixing ... the deeply buried security screw to open the case would have defeated all but the most pig-headed of repairers. I didn't 'choose' to have the case secured.

        A washing machine main bearing is a common fail. Most people would have no idea until they call out the repair man whether such a repair is economic. Nearly all are technically replaceable but well over 60% of manufacturers use drums from one supplier with embedded bearings - replace the single bearing as a £20 part but if it's embedded in the drum it's a £150 full drum replacement ... add an hours labour and it's suddenly uneconomic ...

        This is not the choice a purchaser makes but a minimise production costs / maximise profit by the manufacturer.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: @Dwarf

          So we choose to buy this stuff because it's cheaper ... or more expensive ... ?

          Yep, both. Some people want the latest Apple shinyshiny, so that they can show off to their friends how rich and hip they are, and if it breaks they can afford to replace it. Others buy the cheapest stuff on the basis that it'll be obsolete in 2 years anyway and so they might as well treat it as "disposable" from the start. I can sort-of understand person #1, even if I don't do that, but not #2.

          Then again, I'm happy to replace oven fans, dishwasher pumps or switches, and most things in a TV. Quite apart from the cost & environmental issues, it's more fun. I do find it steadily harder to get hold of service manuals though, so legislation like this is to be applauded.

          1. Tessier-Ashpool

            Re: @Dwarf

            If I replaced a fan in my oven, there's a very good chance I would burn my house down. If my wife did it, the whole village would be in danger. Plus, the oven repair man would be put on the dole and I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

            1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              Wasn't an oven fan I had to replace here. The wiring harnes decided to burn itself out at the main control panel. Doing the swap of both wasn't a bad task in itself, but actually *FINDING* a replacement wiring harness took FAR too long, with Sears constantly pushing the ship date back because they didn't know when (or if) the manufacturer would make replacement ones. I even tried hunting the harness down by the actual OEM of the stove.

              Have to keep replacing toaster ovens because it's impossible to get to the control boards (and this is even with a high-end Breville, which was actually the worst one to dismantle; it was like an Apple of toaster-ovens).

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: @Dwarf

                "The wiring harnes decided to burn itself out at the main control panel."

                No - just no!

                I've replaced the main oven element twice and the fan once. It always happens about this time of year and the original element went on Christmas morning - now I keep a spare to hand. But the wiring harness....maybe I should order one now, just in case.

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  Re: @Dwarf

                  I replaced a heating element in a Bosch dishwasher. It was the deepest most inaccessible part possible, and required the machine to be dismantled completely across the floor. And 3 hours of head-scratching to remember how it all went back together.

              2. herman Silver badge

                Re: @Dwarf

                You can buy high temperature wire and hook it up yourself (done that once). A stove isn't exactly a complicated thing.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @Dwarf

          @Andy The Hat

          "So we choose to buy this stuff because it's cheaper ... or more expensive ... ?"

          Yup. Its the choice of the consumers.

          "I didn't 'choose' to have the case secured."

          Ok. So you bought something you were happy with until something broke and the idea of fixing it wasnt on the top of your priorities until it broke. When you buy the next one will you look at how repairable it is? For a few people the answer might be yes. For most its bin and replace.

          "Most people would have no idea until they call out the repair man whether such a repair is economic"

          As is usually the case for most things. But this isnt about repairs being economic as a cheap product (made cheap) is often easier to just replace. Aka the throwaway culture. I am not judging rights and wrongs but it is what people choose.

          "This is not the choice a purchaser makes but a minimise production costs / maximise profit by the manufacturer."

          Yes. Exactly what we want. Instead of something being an exclusive item of the rich we want things to become cheaper so more people can afford them, and we want profits in business for our employment, pensions, investments and societal gains (it pays the tax for public services). If they dont do this then someone else does and (as I point out) the customers choose what they prefer. Often cheaper prices.

          Apple is a wonderful oddity that no matter how much of a problem they cause and how locked in things are they are obviously desirable to people at higher prices. Again people getting what they want.

          1. My-Handle Silver badge

            Re: @Dwarf

            It might be worth pointing out that, even to a technically-minded person, it's not always obvious what failures are likely to happen until they actually do happen, nor is it obvious whether it's been made deliberately repairable or deliberately not. Even after the fault occurs and you've found yourself with a repair bill that exceeds the cost of a new machine, your average joe isn't going to have any real point of reference regarding whether that was normal or not, or whether it should have been repairable with a halfway competent design. Often you can only make judgement calls on that based on a company's reputation, and that only tends to change over a scale of years or decades rather than the lifetime of a product.

            TL;DR: It's often not obvious at purchase how repairable a product is.

            1. Dwarf Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              @my-handle

              There used to be a time when loads of things came with service manuals available. Anyone else remember Tektronix scopes with their full service manual, circuit diagrams and part numbers?

              It was the same with TV's, BBC micros etc. Now you struggle to find diagrams and due to miniaturisation and funky custom parts, most repair places only board swap. Companies also protect their IP as there are those that just copy a design and sell it as their own, so limiting access protects profits.

              I'm not sure I agree with the "cost is everything" argument though. Lots of people will spend far more time on something than its worth since they can't afford / won't afford to swap out something to the newer device, or they need compatibility with something old which is why it was in use in the first place.

              Either way though, the decision is the customers, they purchased it, they can choose what to do with it. All the anti consumer stuff should be outlawed.

              Another example I hit was a perfectly good HP ultrabook that had an old wireless adapter in it, standard PCI express card, standard aerials etc, tried to swap out to a newer AC standard card and nope, wouldn't even boot as the ID on the card wasn't on the authorised list in the BIOS. The BIOS is protected with RSA encryption, so you can't even get into it to tweak the list.

              Reading between the lines, the official view was "compliance with safety standards" as the specific card had not been tested in the device. Now, you would expect that those selling replacement cards, including the exact same HP part number for a wireless AC card would be OK.

              Same issue with a home button on an iphone. Digitally linked via serial numbers to the motherboard. I can't see why that adds any value to a customer, nor anything to security, but someone spent engineering time building that and adding it into the manufacturing steps.

              The "safety card" is b*llocks, after all, we still sell knives, bleach or even bricks. All can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

              The whole practice needs to be outlawed. People have common sense. People want to fix their stuff.

              1. GeekyDee

                Re: @Dwarf

                We really need to force them to defend their "safety issue" rationale in a court somewhere. I am sure they will just say it's just too hard to explain to you and that you will never understand. Patronising prigs

                1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                  Re: @Dwarf

                  Have you never seen a fan heater some idiot has opened up and jammed the thermostat? Real fire risks.

                  1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                    Re: @Dwarf

                    Well, there's no protecting idiots from themselves, right-to-repair or not. And perhaps jamming the thermostat wasn't the intention, but rather the result of incomprehensible design.

                    And for the idiots doing stupid things, the best you can hope for is for them to Darwin themselves without taking anyone along with them.

                    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                      Re: @Dwarf

                      " the best you can hope for is for them to Darwin themselves without taking anyone along with them."

                      And preferably before they reproduce.

              2. mistersaxon

                Re: @Dwarf

                In the specific case of the home button on the iPhone, that is where the fingerprint data is stored. This really does require an indelible link between the button and the phone so that you can't just plug in a button with a different fingerprint and have that let you in. It should be possible to use a 3rd party button of course, as long as it is just as secure, and, in fact, it is possible to do that but in very case the phone knows it's a new button and you're forced to use the PIN/password to unlock the device until you rescan the relevant digits. Still, as with all repairs to security systems, you have to be very sure you trust all parts of the repair chain as much as you trust the original supplier.

              3. herman Silver badge

                Re: @Dwarf

                Old Tek scopes actually broke once in a while. Modern Tek scopes never break. That is why you don't get the manual and schematic.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              "Often you can only make judgement calls on that based on a company's reputation, and that only tends to change over a scale of years or decades rather than the lifetime of a product."

              The reality can depart from reputation PDQ - but only downwards. Change of management or sale of the brand is all that's needed.

            3. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              It might be worth pointing out that, even to a technically-minded person, it's not always obvious what failures are likely to happen until they actually do happen, nor is it obvious whether it's been made deliberately repairable or deliberately not

              It was easy enough to mark up a display product such as white goods with a colour coded energy rating labels, and noise level ratings etc, so making any feature of a product highly visible to consumers is really not that hard.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: @Dwarf

            "Ok. So you bought something you were happy with until something broke and the idea of fixing it wasnt on the top of your priorities until it broke. When you buy the next one will you look at how repairable it is?"

            Absolutely. When I buy a computer, I read about what repairs are possible and how hard they are. When I buy a washing machine, I'm sure I can get all that information, right? Instead of a few likely options with easy-to-find reviews, I am faced with the choices from local retailers. Should I ask them to let me disassemble one right in the shop to see what I'd be experiencing a few years later? Or maybe I can go to IFixBigEquipment where there's an in-depth review of the repairibility of every model of washing machine released.

            In other words, how am I supposed to know how repairable something is unless the manufacturer has published information or someone else has reviewed it? If I can't know how repairable the thing is, how can I take it into account when making a purchase?

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              @doublelayer

              "When I buy a computer, I read about what repairs are possible and how hard they are"

              I wouldnt be surprised. When I buy a system I look to reviews over motherboard spacing because I will likely upgrade in its lifetime. Bays, power requirements. But that matters to me, I dont expect it to matter to everyone, some people (I know plenty) just want a machine and want it now.

              "When I buy a washing machine, I'm sure I can get all that information, right?"

              Not a concern for me at the moment but my first ones were cheap throw aways as could be afforded at the time. I was looking to replace them at one point (now irrelevant) so was looking into brands and models with good lifespan and likely to be best for repair. Again not something everyone cares about and I dont expect them to.

              "I am faced with the choices from local retailers. Should I ask them to let me disassemble one right in the shop to see what I'd be experiencing a few years later?"

              Ah the mistake. Dont go to the salesman and ask for the information you want. Look stuff up best you can including reviews and then talk to them. Hopefully they can be helpful but a lot of them are effectively supermarket staff level, they are there to process sales.

              "Or maybe I can go to IFixBigEquipment where there's an in-depth review of the repairibility of every model of washing machine released."

              If you know someone who repairs stuff (useful if you want stuff repaired) they usually have good opinions that will help. And why do you want to know every model? Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?

              "In other words, how am I supposed to know how repairable something is unless the manufacturer has published information or someone else has reviewed it?"

              Bing. Using that quote alone you have all you need to answer the question.

              "If I can't know how repairable the thing is, how can I take it into account when making a purchase?"

              Gonna make a simple hypothetical situation- you want a new processor for your computer. You know the supported make and model for your MB, do you buy 'aint a freaking clue what it is' or one that you can look up and meets your requirements?

              Situation2- you need a washing machine. You like most people have more important things in your life than knowing everything or anything about washing machines. Do you buy 'aint a freaking clue what it is' or one you can get information on that meets your requirements?

              Situation3- You need a mobile phone. Do you buy 'aint a freaking clue what it is' or one you can get information on that meets your requirements?

              In all situations you are almost certainly gonna buy on requirements. Does it do what you want. How the hell do you know if it does what you want? You find out, ask questions, look at available information. If it doesnt have information you make a judgement call. And how repairable something is doesnt seem to be that important to people when they make a purchase.

              Thats all I am trying to say, people may say they want 'right to repair' but when it comes to what they do, they dont care. They want cheap and cheerful, or even Apple's very expensive wizz bang. Repairs feature very low down on the list.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: @Dwarf

                I'll state my point less ambiguously. The information needed to determine repairability is by and large unavailable to me. That's why I asked those questions, but apparently it didn't get through. I can't just look up the repair information for many products because the manufacturer didn't make it available and there aren't enough people who like to buy things and write up what it's like to disassemble them. As for your question of why I'd like to get the details on every option, it's so I can compare them. I also like my products cheap, so if I find two models that can be repaired, I'll likely buy the cheaper one. If I only get one recommendation for a repairable one, I don't have that option. This is why just having a reliable repairability score would be so useful. For those who already care, it makes information available when they wouldn't have it. For those who don't care, it would display the differences more prominently and might convince them that they do care after all.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @Dwarf

                  @doublelayer

                  "That's why I asked those questions, but apparently it didn't get through"

                  And what you dont seem to get is this information already exists, provided by the market. People. The early adopters get to buy the less tested and those who want easy to repair can get the tried and true on available information.

                  Having a repairability score has problems. How can these things be compared and to what scoring method? Not enough people care about it otherwise manufacturers would be providing the information so is it a government mandated scoring system with gov stamps and usual buerocracy and stupidity? How much more will this cost people who just want a damn product cheaply vs you? How many products wont be brought to market for this extra cost?

                  And the end result is for you to find information which is mostly already available and market provided? The costs are real when your scenarios you presented all suggest you just need to do a little research. Instead everyone else would have to pay so you dont have to do that.

                  "I also like my products cheap, so if I find two models that can be repaired, I'll likely buy the cheaper one. If I only get one recommendation for a repairable one, I don't have that option."

                  The answer to this is simple. The one which provides the information caters to you. What you want. The one that doesnt provide the information isnt catering to you, it doesnt matter if you want cheap because cheap seems less important than repair information. With repair information the cost goes up.

                  I am sure there are some real examples where repair information cant be gleaned. Laziness is not one of them.

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: @Dwarf

        "That is where we do live in a free market. We have expressed preferences (want to choose who fixes my stuff) and revealed preferences which is what people actually do. It is free market which has brought this through consumer choice."

        Please stop with your A-level economics. You have to take into account asymmetric information, where I do not know that the piece of equipment is difficult to repair, and cartel/oligopoly behaviour, where there are only a few manufacturers of a product , each of whom does the behaviour. You think HP could get away with their ink shenanigans if there were genuine, well-informed, choices available to consumers?

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @Dwarf

          @DavCrav

          "You have to take into account asymmetric information"

          So you dont research what you are going to buy?

          "where I do not know that the piece of equipment is difficult to repair"

          That kind of equipment or specific product? Did you look or was it not so important to you at the time of purchase?

          "cartel/oligopoly behaviour"

          Which gets punished. But not what we are talking about unless you think so many businesses are running such?

          "You think HP could get away with their ink shenanigans if there were genuine, well-informed, choices available to consumers?"

          Yes. Availability does not mean will to look. People have their own preferences, sometimes convenience is worth more than repair-ability (at least at the time of purchase).

          "Please stop with your A-level economics"

          Didnt take it but thanks. Should we abandon any economic thought in this discussion or just if our opinion doesnt match yours?

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: @Dwarf

            "Which gets punished. But not what we are talking about unless you think so many businesses are running such?"

            I was going to comment on other things in your post, but I decided that this morsel is the most illuminating. Oligopolies naturally form cartel-like behaviours without formally being a cartel. I guess you didn't do A-level economics (as you stated) because even there one finds out about non-price competition in duopolies.

            It's a basic fact of the last thirty years or so that there is increasing consolidation in more or less every sector of corporate life, particulary in the US. With this consolidation comes much greater profits, and those come from the consumer, eventually. US companies are significantly more profitable than their European counterparts, and it's believed that consolidation is the reason for most of this variation. Large companies merge because they predict the ability to raise prices, reduce service quality, and therefore increase profits.

            Apple makes a battery that cannot be swapped. But now so do almost every other manufacturer. Unless you want a Fairphone, you cannot get a user-repairable phone. Since Fairphone produce such a thing, it is clearly possible. But other manufacturers do not produce them. I, personally, have a list of things I want from my phone and the Fairphone doesn't fit them, so I cannot have one, but I would prefer a phone with their repairability, with other features. Such a phone is not available to me, so I cannot express my preference and purchase one.

            Revealed preferences only work if there are the following features to the market:

            1) Perfect information. Manufacturers hide significant amounts of information about their product. You cannot find out estimated failure rates of components of a new car, for example, because manufacturers do not provide them.

            2) Low or zero barriers to entry. This is necessary because unsatisfied demand, say for a repairable phone, would be satisfied by a new entrant into the market, thus forcing current manufacturers to adapt to the demands of the market. Of course, unless you have a spare few billion you cannot set up your own phone manufacturer, so this one's difficult as well.

            Of these, 2) is much more important than 1). With high barriers to entry, either natural (complex machinery) or artifical (advertising, regulation, restricted supply), the preferences of consumers can be subverted by manufacturers who can simply refuse to provide what the customer wants.

            As a case study, consider gyms. Nobody wants a 12-month rolling contract. But that's what you get because fuck you. So PureGym was set up to take advantage of this untapped demand. The trouble is, PureGym cannot expend very easily, because barriers to entry are high: you have to buiild a lot of gyms. It took a long time for this competitor to become established, because the barriers to entry in this market are pretty high. PureGym, which gives customers what they want, is now the largest gym chain in the UK.

            But ten years ago, your argument would have been that people really want 12-month contracts because look, that's what people are buying.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              @DavCrav

              "I was going to comment on other things in your post, but I decided that this morsel is the most illuminating"

              Good way to say your avoiding the topic to focus on the definition of a small thing you brought up and irrelevant to the discussion. As I stated and you quoted.

              "Apple makes a battery that cannot be swapped. But now so do almost every other manufacturer."

              Wrong. My previous phone actually came with 2 batteries (both very long life). Granted I look for something different in my phone and certainly not an Apple (my preference not to have Apple). The 'almost' in your sentence being the word that removes your complaint. Also mine wasnt a fairphone but they actually look quite nice (just had a look).

              "Revealed preferences only work if there are the following features to the market"

              It requires choice and assumes rational behaviour as far as I know.

              "Perfect information."

              Really? I havnt seen where that is said (I am not a scholar of economics as admitted). It seems to rely on choice and rational behaviour which would require amounts of information but not perfect information. Plus there is information as I have already mentioned and so choice.

              "Low or zero barriers to entry"

              Eh? We are talking about repairing products and there is already information out there and as people have pointed out there used to be much more. And people chose the new entrants of cheaper and less repairable.

              "But ten years ago, your argument would have been that people really want 12-month contracts because look, that's what people are buying."

              Looking at your example are you saying the government mandated a change because they believe it is what the people want? Or in your example did the market change due to the desires of customers? Because this is about making a law over expressed preferences while ignoring the revealed preference. Your example seems to be about more choice (market) not less choice (law).

              Also you are wrong about what my argument would be since I am pro-market and would agree someone should just set up an alternative if they are so sure (which they did). Pro choice.

          2. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: @Dwarf

            So much to take apart. Let's get to it:

            Original: "You have to take into account asymmetric information"

            Reply: "So you dont research what you are going to buy?"

            Asymmetric information: noun. A situation where information is not available to both sides of a theoretical transaction. If asymmetric information is part of the experience, then research will not result in the desired information. An example: I do not know when buying a phone whether and for how long its manufacturer plans to release updates for it. The manufacturer does, but I don't. I have to guess based on reputation, previous history, etc. This is unreliable at best. It can often be worse.

            Original: "where I do not know that the piece of equipment is difficult to repair"

            Reply part 1: "That kind of equipment or specific product?"

            Specific product, obviously. For each option. From context, this is what the complaint is about.

            Reply part 2: "Did you look or was it not so important to you at the time of purchase?"

            See above, under the section entitled "asymmetric information".

            Original: "cartel/oligopoly behaviour"

            Reply part 1: "Which gets punished."

            You have more faith than I do.

            Reply part 2: "But not what we are talking about unless you think so many businesses are running such?"

            I would like to argue against this, but the first reply has already taken this and done an admirable job.

            Original: "Please stop with your A-level economics"

            Reply: "Didnt take it but thanks. Should we abandon any economic thought in this discussion or just if our opinion doesnt match yours?"

            I'm not sure if you're misunderstanding that point deliberately or because of a regional term. I'll assume the best. If you're unaware, A-levels are the tests taken in the UK by adolescents and cover the basics of a topic. Therefore, to accuse someone of using "A-level economics" means that you are accusing them of having only an elemental understanding of a complex topic and displaying ignorance. The solution to that is not "abandon[ing] any economic thought" but instead to consider more complex parts of economics, among which are the incorrectness of the perfectly competitive free market.

            1. LybsterRoy

              Re: @Dwarf

              <<A-levels are the tests taken in the UK by adolescents and cover the basics of a topic>>

              I know O (now sort of GCSE )and A levels have been degraded a bit since I took them umpty years ago but if A levels cover the basics what do GCSE levels cover?

            2. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: @Dwarf

              @doublelayer

              "Asymmetric information: noun"

              Or- 'lazy: adjective'. If the poor excuse is some stuff has less information about it, then dont buy the ones with no information! People buy what they want and they know this by looking at what they care about before purchase. I know people who buy throwaways and people who buy to last. And the intention brings results. It doesnt require perfect information of every choice yadda yadda excuse. It requires the effort to look at what you care about, and people do.

              "Specific product, obviously. For each option. From context, this is what the complaint is about."

              And its a stupid complaint. If I want a washing machine I want a washing machine. I dont want information on every single machine in all levels of detail. I narrow down based on what I want and look up relevant information. If the information isnt there I cant be sure it is what I want and often scratch from the list.

              "A-levels are the tests taken in the UK by adolescents and cover the basics of a topic. Therefore, to accuse someone of using "A-level economics" means that you are accusing them of having only an elemental understanding of a complex topic and displaying ignorance"

              I am aware. Since it was an idiotic insult I was throwing one back.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: @Dwarf

                "People buy what they want and they know this by looking at what they care about before purchase."

                They do. If they can get said information, which sometimes they can't. You don't know, for example, whether a certain component is going to be easy to replace unless one of the following situations occurs:

                1. The manufacturer tells you. They often don't.

                2. Someone else buys one and disassembles it so you can watch their discoveries. They mostly do that for only the most popular of devices.

                3. The product has been available for long enough that people have broken them and the information about repair policies has been released. This only happens if enough people bought it and often takes months or years.

                For certain products, this is easier. A durable expected to last decades can often be researched because you don't have to get the new model. The flagship consumer electronics will get dismantled by somebody on release, so that information will come out at some point. For other products, you won't get it. Maybe not enough get purchased for much information to come from independent repair attempts. Maybe, by the time that information is available, the manufacturer isn't making that product anymore. This is asymmetric information. I want to know details about a variety of options so I can choose which I wish to buy, but the information didn't get released to me so I can't. In this situation, I'm usually faced with the option to buy the one product that did make the information available, even if it's not really my favorite option, or to choose a product that looks like I'd like it more but I don't know many of the details that interest me.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: @Dwarf

                  @doublelayer

                  "You don't know, for example, whether a certain component is going to be easy to replace unless one of the following situations occurs"

                  A component provided by the assembler, or a manufacturer, or a manufacturer of a part used by the manufacturer.... how far down must this go?

                  "I want to know details"

                  No you dont. You want to know specific details which you care about. Out of the wide array of information people could possibly want you care about this specific bit of information. And while this information is out there because some other people care too you want this information on everything. At great cost. To provide a bit of information special for you.

                  What about the person who wants quick and cheap? The price goes up to provide this extra compliance for the few. You care about repairability, someone else might care about disposable cheap. And the more information is demanded for compliance (not just repairability) the higher the cost goes on everyone.

                  "In this situation, I'm usually faced with the option to buy the one product that did make the information available, even if it's not really my favorite option, or to choose a product that looks like I'd like it more but I don't know many of the details that interest me."

                  And here is your preference. You choose repairability over cheap and complain its not your favourite option. But its what you want. If you wanted shiny you would have that as more important. Or storage capacity. Or colour of the casing (I have known people like that).

                  You care about one little thing over all else that others just dont. Just because you care about that little bit of information over all else doesnt at all apply to everyone or most. And it sucks because I too like to buy things to last. But I am not so selfish that I would want government to step in to mandate my preference at a cost to everyone, thats just bad. Instead like you I pick the items that meet my requirements and if that information isnt available for a specific product then I dont buy that product.

                  Its not difficult, its not hard, its not unusual. People are pretty good at sorting themselves out.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: @Dwarf

                    TL;DR

                    It comes across a little like this: https://youtu.be/DIhKuKodyMQ

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: @Dwarf

          Please stop with your A-level economics. You have to take into account asymmetric information, where I do not know that the piece of equipment is difficult to repair, and cartel/oligopoly behaviour, where there are only a few manufacturers of a product , each of whom does the behaviour. You think HP could get away with their ink shenanigans if there were genuine, well-informed, choices available to consumers?

          Exactly. The information needed to make a considered, informed choice is wilfully and intentionally being held from the public. And likely to become even worse under the incoming administration. It's the same way withholding the facts of the Hunter Biden case caused people to vote for Harris/Biden, even if they wouldn't have had the media not been intentionally suppressing the information.

      3. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

        Re: @Dwarf

        I'm surprised at the downvotes. People might not like what you say, but I think it's spot-on. We are inexorably moving towards having shiny stuff whose functioning appears to be magical to the majority of the population.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: @Dwarf

          @ICL1900-G3

          Thanks, I appreciate that. I expect I have a few downvotes for the pleasure of me saying it. But I am aware my views dont always mesh with the current ways of doing things

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      "have you considered the universal remote controls - they often have all the devices listed and either have the codes or you can download them to the devices."

      Not the original poster, but in an unrelated incident, I have tried to do that, but I did not have much success. I was given an old television whose primary defect was that it wasn't as big as the one the previous owner wanted, but also had no remote control. I tried to find the codes to get it running using an old Android phone with an IR transmitter and later an old "programmable" remote control, but it resolutely refused to respond to any of the codes I sent to it. Maybe the phone's IR function required a Google library (this had had Play Services removed). More likely though is that the codes it knew and the random numbers I found online were not the random numbers this television was expecting. Don't count on that information; it's not as good as it seems.

      If you're curious, the television now sits on a friend's wall. You have to go up to it to change things, but they seem not to mind. I'm still not sure why the previous owner didn't try to sell it, or why I tried so hard to get it working given that I never wanted to use it, but all's well that ends sort of working.

      1. LybsterRoy

        I've used a couple of programmable remote controls and they had a "keep trying the next code" capability. Meant a long time just pressing a button until the TV finally responded but they worked.

    3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      We haven't lost any right, though. You're perfectly entitled to fix stuff if you can.

      For what it's worth, I often fix stuff people say to discard and replace. It's a myth that stuff is unfixable, in many cases.

      Well, that said some stuff is 'unfixable' because no-one in their right mind would try to fix something where the single major component is broken, so it's hard to do.

  4. nematoad Silver badge
    FAIL

    Go away boy, you bother me.

    "Compared to the US, China, and mainland Europe, the UK is a small market..."

    Aye, there's the rub. By needlessly leaving the EU we have put ourselves in a very weak position vis-a-vis the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft. "Take back control" may have been a useful tool in persuading people to vote Leave but when the country is told that we are no longer important or big enough for these companies and others to care about, it may start to ring a bit hollow.

    Johnson and his cronies may currently be kings of all they survey but if no-one can be bothered to take us seriously due to our self-imposed isolation and weakness, then what they survey may not amount to much.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

      "Compared to the US, China, and mainland Europe, the UK is a small market..."

      But is it really? For electricals the only major difference is the plug.

      For cars small number of components (headlight assemblies and alike) are possibly different due to handedness of the drive.

      For most things anything for EU market would be suitable for UK market (it doesn't suddendly become incompatible and stop working on 31st of December 2020).

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

        But is it really? For electricals the only major difference is the plug.

        The UK is presently harmonized with the EU at 230 volts +/- 10% at 50 Hz, although there are doubtless plenty of Brexit headbangers itching to assert our sovereignty over this.

        Many not insignificant parts of the world use voltages around 115 volts (100 volts, 115 volts, 127 volts etc) and sometimes 60 Hz.

        It matters because plugging a 115 volt motor into 230 volts is a bad idea, and plugging a 230 volt motor plugged into a 115 volt supply is a disappointment.

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

          I thought me comparing UK vs EU as market was obvious. Clearly not.

          I'm quite aware of the 230V which was chosen as most of Europe used to be 220V and UK was 240V (iirc) so 230V +/-10% was obvious "change" given the tolerances.

      2. CrackedNoggin

        Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

        I interpreted the statement "small market" to refer to the collective leverage available to consumers. When it comes to leverage 1 + 1 is greater than 2.

      3. R Soul

        Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

        There are shitloads of regulations for electrical products over and above the sodding plug - recycling, safety, materials, electomagnetic radiation, power consumption, etc. Most of these apply across the EU.

        So provided Brexit Britain obeys those pesky rules from the unelected dictators in Brussels, all will be well. Manufacturers can continue to sell the same tat across the continent. But then the lying fuckwits like Johnson, Farage and Cummings won't have taken back control. And we can't have that, can we? This'll mean UK has to introduce its own regulations for tellys, microwaves, lightbulbs and so on. That will be a smaller market for manufacturers to bother about.

        Remember too tossers like Rees-Mogg want to do away with regulations and red tape once they've told Johnny Foreigner who's boss. If that means allowing the sale of asbestos-riddled toasters or fridges that double up as electrocution devices, that's just fine. Market forces can sort that out. It's only his servants and other riff-raff who will be at risk anyway.

        1. david bates

          Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

          You do know, don't you, that we'll be able to pick and choose what laws we have? If it makes sense to piggyback on EU standards then we will.

          Of course, you may be right, and countries like New Zealand, who are not in the EU are riddled with lethal electronics and cars assembled from random scrap. It does seem more likely however that most of these standards are pretty common across the world, hence the same TVs etc being sold globally.

          Is this news to you, are are you just here to talk crap about Brexit?

        2. LybsterRoy

          Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

          I assume then that all manufacturers produce to a different set of regulations for every market, not work out the highest common standard and use that for all unless a market is big enough, profitable enough or different enough to merit different production runs.

          Plugs are an interesting example. These days a lot of the stuff I but has a common bit for the plug with an adapter that fits on to different countries preferred way of doing things. I've also bought items with a voltage input switch.

          Final point. If, as is often asserted by remainers, we're going to have lower standards will the government refuse entry to products made to higher standard?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

            Why would a manufacturer choose to export higher standard products to a country that has lower standards? If the market's awash with cheap and nasty crap, why bother trying to offer better quality that costs more and nobody will buy? It's not about the government allowing better quality goods entry to the market. It's about the race to the bottom that's just around the corner.

            1. DavCrav Silver badge

              Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

              "Why would a manufacturer choose to export higher standard products to a country that has lower standards?"

              Because you would have to produce lots of different variants, and that's more expensive than just producing a few.

        3. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

          If someone decides to meet EU regulations, they can produce goods which can be sold into the EU market. That doesn't change whether they're in the EU, UK, or China. If they lie about it, that's fraud, which is taken more seriously here than in China etc.

          So what's the problem you're trying to discuss?

          It's a really bizarre argument when UK companies in fact produce electrical goods which are compliant with e.g. US regulations.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

            The issue is that if the UK requires a higher standard for anything, many manufacturers will simply not bother making compliant kit, and the few that do will charge a *lot* more because they can!

            We already see this when comparing Chinese, US and EU markets.

            So the only real options for the UK is to accept the same or lower standard than some other major market does - but without any input into the rules for that major market.

            So the UK is in fact relinquishing control.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

              So you're saying it's about sovereignty, and also that the EU can't be trusted to set sensible rules on such things? ;)

              I'm really not seeing what the problem is here. The UK, and other nation states, didn't have input into EU technical and safety regulations - those are created based on evidence, not politics. We've always had the option of more stringent regulations in some areas, and have even used that option in various cases. Where the necessary adaptations are simple - e.g. electric bikes - we get products tweaked for our market. We even get most cars in RHD, which is a major adaptation, though if course the UK isn't the entire market there.

              Fwiw, most countries are too small to have market clout, and they manage just fine by adopting the set of standards that suit them.

              1. R Soul

                Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

                "The UK, and other nation states, didn't have input into EU technical and safety regulations"

                They do - and have always had that ability.

                UK doesn't any more because it left the EU and no longer has a say.

                1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

                  Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

                  So you're saying the regulations aren't evidence based, but are politically motivated? That's simply not the case.

            2. R Soul

              Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

              >>>>> So the UK is in fact relinquishing control.

              Exactly!

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Go away boy, you bother me.

      "Compared to the US, China, and mainland Europe, the UK is a small market..."

      Unfortunately true. And what leverage it did have was lost to Brexit.

  5. TVU Silver badge

    "Calls for 'right to repair' electronics laws grow louder across Europe"

    Good, and not before time too. Although Apple is a prime offender in this respect, they are increasingly not the only one and important components that are soldered or glued in place make it more difficult to repair a computer and so there's ultimately more unnecessary e-waste to deal with.

    1. Franco Silver badge

      Unfortunately as Apple leads so the others shall follow. Many, many people said they would never buy iPhones because they wanted swappable or multiple batteries. Although battery tech has improved massively since those days the vast majority of phones now have embedded batteries. Ditto with removable storage, and to a lesser extent headphone jacks.

      It's true of laptops as well, I myself used to look for laptops with easy to upgrade RAM or hard drives but RAM is now often soldered to the board, HDs are glued in etc.

      It's almost like replacing the clutch on a car. £50-100 or so part cost (maybe more for some cars), massive labour cost because it's at least gearbox off, maybe engine out in some cases.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Vauxhall/Opel had a really neat way of changing a clutch* without taking anything else out back in the 1990s(?). It didn't last long, allegedly because the dealers were losing too much money - it was quick, it was easy, and didn't need e.g. transmission oil so no washer for the sump-plug etc.

        *Front wheel drive J-series engines, if I recall.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Clutch

          off topic I know.

          1980's FWD Vauxhall/Opel. Clutch accessible through a cover at bottom of bell housing. 6 bolts and cover is off. Spin the clutch and remove 6 bolts holding it to flywheel. Pull shaft out of the end of gear box and clutch drops onto floor. Refitting is reverse of the above. Did my Astra clutch in 45 minutes in my driveway, having never done one before. Pissed myself laughing at friend who "just had to" have a BMW. Cost him more to get a new clutch than he paid for the car (which is probably why it was for sale cheap in the first place) and it was in the garage for 2 days. I've tended to piss myself laughing at fools who buy over expensive cars ever since.

          Yes, I can believe lots of dealers thought they were loosing money. But is is possible to design/engineer products to be easily repairable until the beancounters get involved and decide it is more profitable to force a new purchase or use of their own repair facilities. Early/mid generation mobile phones had many parts user-replaceable - from batteries and antennas to clip-on front covers and more. Anyone remember those?

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: Clutch

            "until the beancounters get involved and decide it is more profitable to force a new purchase or use of their own repair facilities."

            Exactly.

      2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        The labour cost is a lot lower at specialist clutch change garages. I've been quoted about 150 quid fairly recently, which seemed pretty reasonable to me.

        Dealers absolutely take the piss on clutch changes, because they see anyone still using them, with a car old enough to need a new clutch, as a complete sucker.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Though a modern clutch system usually requires not only the clutch plate but the driven plate and in many cases a dual mass flywheel, and perhaps a clutch release bearing/slave cylinder too... so the cost is high but the cost of getting that deep into the engine makes it sensible to replace anyway.

          The old 80s Datsun Sunny had a front wheel drive system and a clutch plate that could be lifted out after, from memory, 18 bolts were removed. Twenty minute job.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    It's an old practice that'll be hard to displace

    I have electronic systems from the late '80s onward that include ICs with the markings scuffed off. Often, when I could categorise a chip on an analyser, it's turned out to be as commonplace as standard TTL.

    Quite part from intentional obfuscation, it's a whole lot cheaper to build kit to non-repairable design as a lot of quite costly provisions don't have to be made (a blob of glue is much cheaper and simpler to implement than a drilled and tapped hole and a screw). So desire for churn is probably only one of the considerations. Another is "value engineering" - simplifying design to minimise production cost, but it can be taken too far.

    The white goods (and indeed vehicles) problem is relatively new but very real. I run a 25 year old car and have a friendly mechanic who can fix (and has fixed) almost anything on it without recourse to a "diagnostic station", and my washing machine, inherited second hand a decade ago, is still going strong and so easy to repair that I fitted a new valve set and pump in a couple of hours flat. But we now have not only non-repairable tumble driers, but ones that catch fire spontaneously from new.

    So a "right to repair", although an excellent idea, will only address part of the problem. Ultimately we need products that are designed and built to last with minimal need to repair.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: It's an old practice that'll be hard to displace

      Hear Hear! I'm still using my TLK1100 vacuum cleaner that I bought in 1993. It works perfectly, and that now works out at less than a fiver a year it's cost me.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's an old practice that'll be hard to displace

      It is BOTH the desire to manufacture cheaper AND force the consumer to buy new product.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could Backfire

    When I was a student I worked part-time in a shop doing electrical repairs (TVs, radios, hi-fi and some white goods). Most were fairly easy to repair and our small team were quite experienced with the various makes and models on the market. To take the TVs as an example, the Ferguson models had chassis that came out on rails to give easy access to all the boards; ITT models had a chassis that hinged down, again giving easy access. Sony, on the other hand, were a right pig to repair. One reason for the latter was how they were designed, the other was because we got very little practice. Very few ever needed our attention, and those that did, it was usually due to external factors (power surges weren't uncommon in some local areas, or water dripping from plants placed on top). The Ferguson and ITT models needed to be easy to fix because the often broke down. I'd hate to repair a modern TV - but the ones I've had for the past 30 years or so have never needed attention - replacement has always been to get something better (and the old gone on to other folk for whom that one was an upgrade). Someone has commented that cars are harder to repair nowadays. I don't disagree - but I haven't needed to have mine repaired beyond an annual service for a long while. 30 years ago I did all my own car maintenance - and I would regularly need to do it. None of the iPhones I've had for the past 10 years have ever needed repair (a 4S and 5S still in use have had new batteries - supplied and fitted for under £20 each).

    Modern kit is harder to repair - but is so rarely needs it. Easier repairs would be nice butI wouldn't want to go back to kit that was easy to repair if that means it will need it more often. It's the modern assemblies that enhance reliability. The current market isn't perfect and it needs to be possible for independent repairs, but let's not ensure we make repair shops the new mass market.

    OK - now step back for the flames!

    1. bigtreeman

      Re: Could Backfire

      You would love what my Dad used to do to our TV.

      When a dud valve became unavailable he would replace the valve with a birds nests of discrete components hanging above the valve socket.

      We had that black and white TV well into the colour era.

  8. TinTinTeroo

    We're looking at you John Deere...

    ...you farmer bashing turds

  9. HarryBl

    I used to fix Atari STs down to component level because they used ordinary DIL packages.

    When surface mount came along I used to fix them because they were big enough to handle with a heat gun, Weller iron and a pot of flux

    Modern surface mount is a different matter altogether...

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      It is. And, when the day comes, what are you going to repair if you lift the lid on an iPhone to mostly find just a system-on-a-chip?

  10. six_tymes

    thank you Louis!

  11. David M

    Would this work?

    If manufacturers won't make products repairable because it costs too much, one option would be to price-in the repairability. If the repairability score is R=1..10, say, charge VAT at 10*(10-R)%, so it's 90% for the least repairable item and 0% for the most repairable. That way there would be a significant financial incentive to make (and to buy) more repairable products.

    1. Timbo

      Re: Would this work?

      "If manufacturers won't make products repairable because it costs too much, one option would be to price-in the repairability. If the repairability score is R=1..10, say, charge VAT at 10*(10-R)%, so it's 90% for the least repairable item and 0% for the most repairable. That way there would be a significant financial incentive to make (and to buy) more repairable products."

      Who would you get to offer the assessment for an items "repairability"?

      A more obvious step would be to offer longer warrantees (say 5-7 years) on products such that the manufacturer (or their appointed agents) HAVE to repair the item within this period.

      If the product is well made and well designed, in principle it won't go wrong....so there's no cost to the manufacturer. If it can be repaired, then no problem - let them do it.

      But if it is unrepairable, the manufacturer will be required to report that to a Govt Dept, who can then charge them for it.

  12. Timbo

    UK Govt changed the rules...

    Some time back, it was well known that manufacturers had to keep spare parts available for up to 7 years AFTER a product was discontinued to ensure that repairs with original parts could be carried out.

    This was rescinded by UK Govt maybe 10-15 years ago - I'm not sure which political party was in "power" at the time...but it has lead to an inevitable change in manufacturing to the point where many products are priced (at retail) on the basis that a certain percentage will go wrong and cannot be repaired.

    I worked for one such company and they included a 5% "allowance" in their prime cost, to take account of an expected out of the box failure rate of up to 5%. In actual fact, the initial faliure rate turned out to be less than 2% to begin with but which reduced to less than 1% over time.

    Hence this 5% allowance means the failed items have been "paid for".

    The failed products were initially put in a skip and crushed...as they were made in China and could not be sent back for reparation. But as more of these products were sold, and more "trivial" issues arose, so these failed items were cannibalised for parts.

    1. david bates

      Re: UK Govt changed the rules...

      Yeah I bought a Ninja food processor - a good one. £150 ish IIRC. A tiny clip broke on the lid about a month out of warrantee. The Amazon reviews mentioned this being an issue. Ninja said "no longer made, out of warrantee, parts not available, not our problem". Amazon, bless them, stepped up the plate and gave me a full refund. Ninja and associated brands have lost my business for good. Shame, because it was the best food processor I'd even had and had some nice features.

  13. ElectricPics

    The way we ‘buy’ consumer electronics is changing to one of lifetime licensing, meaning the manufacturer legally retains the right to change the spec, exclude third party repairers and consumable suppliers by means of software and hardware. Yes, you, Apple, HP. Others are available. Car manufacturers are doing the same - Tesla recently downgraded the spec of some models OTA to remove a feature - heated rear seats in the case I read about. The car isn’t bought - you licence it.

    1. CrackedNoggin

      "remove a feature - heated rear seat" --- Cold hearted bummer!

  14. steviebuk Silver badge

    Right to repair is a MUST

    There is a tracker manufacturer, I believe in the US, who have now made it as part of the sale of a tracker, that if needing repair it MUST be taken to an authorised repair shop. No longer can the local farmer who lives out in the sticks miles from nowhere, repair their own tracker.

    Its bollocks and needs to be stopped. If you bought it, you should be 100% entitled to repair it.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Right to repair is a MUST

      This is why we need an edit button. Pissing phone.

      Tractor. I meant tractor!!!

  15. bigtreeman

    Mahindra

    Well a vehicle is a lot of computerised electronics these days.

    I am just purchasing a Mahindra and the first thing I did (pre-purchase)

    was to download a full workshop manual including all diagnostics.

    I just threw away a Re___lt Mas__r van because it couldn't be diagnosed

    by two mechanics or the local (city) dealer.

    I am pissed, I had fitted it out as a camper and we were about to have

    our first post covid holiday and meet the new grand daughter (now 6 months old).

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Mahindra

      You need a proper mechanic. Most of them spend their time doing basic parts swaps. They mostly don't do troubleshooting or thinking; their business is banging out lots of simple jobs.

      What was the problem with the Renault?

  16. GeekyDee

    Base IP on Tech lifespan?

    So, you say your gear is obsolete after 2 years? I guess your patent should only last that long. New fridges and major appliances going out after 3 years (real world anecdotes -brother had a washer last 3 years, washer and fridge lasted a little loner at ~4.5)? Maybe we should put an environmental tax on planned obsolescence, with the money refunded (pro-rated) to the consumers who bought the trash, er, items when turned in for recycling (tied to serial numbers to prevent theft). The ability to repair can extend the lifespan of items many times over.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Youtube for Louis Rossmann. New York's most entertaining & honest Apple repair Guy

    and very active right to repair Guy.

    We Love Louis.

  18. lsces

    Require manufacturers to repair for at least 5 years?

    Having recently taken another 2 HP printers down the tip because they are out of warrantee I think is about time all manufacturers should be required to offer a repair service? I did try to repair one of them using a replacement new print head, but without success. Since it was an A3 all-in-one machine is grated having to throw it away, and at the very least HP should have collected it to recycle themselves if they refuse to repair it?

  19. Pangasinan Philippines

    Deliberate Brick

    I have a Denon CEOL Piccolo internet radio that worked just fine for seven years until it needed a firmware update.

    The update failed and it went to the service agency for the update.

    When it was returned, all the radio stations were wiped. No problem I thought, just reload the stations.

    BUT, there was a message telling me to look at radioDenon.com

    That was a page run by Vtuner who have taken over the station 'tuning' from Denon.

    They want a yearly subscription to enable station updates.

    This is all new to me as I thought that Denon would supply the stations. My 'contract' when I bought it was with Denon.

    So I now have a brick which is technically very capable of working except that I have to pay to use it again.

    So the moral is don't buy a Denon as a retirement present to yourself. One day it will just stop working!

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Deliberate Brick

      The very idea that you should have to use a 3rd-party service to configure your equipment is just wrong in itself. Doesn't matter whether you have to pay for the service or not, although your example shows a major reason WHY it is so bad.

      It's one thing that was so much better on the PalmOS compared to the Android/iOS environments we have now. You could sync all your information locally to your PC with a simple serial or USB cable, and no dependence on squirting your data to a dirt-floor shack in Bangalore (or worse yet, a snooping server run by the CCP). Sure, you can set up something like NextCloud, but under PalmOS you didn't even have to do that.

      I've long suggested we need a PalmOS-API superset for Android that would allow us to restore that functionality. Then we could go back to locally-managed contacts, notes, to-do lists, etc, and keep them out of the hands of snoops and companies looking to screw us over whenever possible.

  20. Blackjack Silver badge

    So... how long until Apple gets an Iphone 12 lawsuit?

    You now is coming.

  21. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Often devices get discarded because they are no longer soft/firmware updated: Manufacturers should be forced to make all firmware/software for such devices open source, the moment they are no longer supported.

  22. Spit The Dog

    Lighting

    Try and buy a light fitting where the bulb can be changed. Many are fixed LEDs. I wondered who paid the electrician to replace it if it failed in the warranty period?

    1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

      Re: Lighting

      Depends on how you paid in the first place. If you bought the light and paid someone to fit it, that's your problem. If you paid someone to supply a fitted, working, light, UT's their problem. Obviously the latter will be significantly more expensive initially.

  23. Oh Matron! Silver badge

    Phillips....

    I have an electric tooth brush. 1 charger.

    My One blade. Another charger

    My hair clippers. Yet another different charger. It's not just about personal computing

  24. Binraider

    Mandating the use of organic polymer capacitors that are far less likely to fail than liquid filled electroytic caps would fettle a lot of problems with mass-produced electronics necessitating repairs in the first place. I've also seen sacrificial relays implemented in TV's in such a manner; that if you had a problem with the HDMI breakout box; the TV supplier would change the WHOLE TV not just the breakout. Madness. Put trip relays in sure, but don't make them sacrificial.

    Good luck trying to prescribe laws around making equipment accessible to fix; or for those parties to actually have to stock spares for the next 10 years.

    Right to repair probably should be extended to cover software patches in much the same way - if the manufacturer no longer provides support, mandate the open-sourcing of the code driving it.

    1. tlhonmey

      Mandating organic polymer caps would run into the same problem as the "sealed beam" headlight mandate over here in the USA. Sealed beam was a new automotive headlamp technology that produced significantly more light, lasted longer, and used less power. So our all-wise government made them mandatory.

      And later, when halogen bulbs came out that were even better there were about ten years where it was illegal to have them on your car and anyone the cops noticed with brighter than average headlights would get pulled over and issued a citation.

      If you want repairable equipment, buy repairable equipment. It already exists, you just have to go shopping based on more than the number on the price tag. Manufacturers will design new products based on what they see people buying. If you buy cheap, you'll get cheap. If you buy repairable, you'll get repairable.

  25. Sparkus

    repairability costs money

    .........both at the front end, during manufacturing and at the back-end, allowing users to get a decent service life out of equipment and pushing back replacement purchases.

    As long as it's a money issue, why not add a tax-scheme to 'encourage' makers to build-in repair-ability instead of just 'recycle-ability'.

  26. dmartin

    Rechargeable batteries and also "non-supported hardware"

    I don't know for sure but I hope the EU also has these in their sights:

    Rechargable batteries that should be - but are not - easy to replace. Cases in point: (Braun) electric shavers, various toothbrushes, clippers etc that I've had to junk over the years for this reason only.

    Loss of software support: one example (sorry Google, you're not the only culprit), Google phones go for ~3-4 years before support runs out. The devices themselves are good for easily double that. Many laptops, tablets etc similarly affected. Ongoing support probably should be required to be doubled.

    1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

      Re: Rechargeable batteries and also "non-supported hardware"

      My Braun shaver has a replaceable battery. One screw to release - which is one of reasons why I bought it.

      Soldering tabs on battery is another matter... (hint: you can buy them with tabs already soldered)

      1. dmartin

        Re: Rechargeable batteries and also "non-supported hardware"

        What's the Braun model? Not anything I have seen or can find ....

        1. Irony Deficient

          Re: Rechargeable batteries and also “non-supported hardware”

          I don’t know which Braun model Jean had in mind, but the Braun MobileShave M-90 “travel razor” takes two (possibly rechargeable) AA batteries, and requires no tools to change them.

    2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Rechargeable batteries and also "non-supported hardware"

      Loss of software support: one example (sorry Google, you're not the only culprit), Google phones go for ~3-4 years before support runs out. The devices themselves are good for easily double that. Many laptops, tablets etc similarly affected. Ongoing support probably should be required to be doubled.

      As far as Android devices are concerned, locked-down boot systems should be banned as well. If the manufacturer decides to stop providing updates, you should be free to load LineageOS or whatever AOSP-based firmware replacement you prefer to the device (or even a non-Android OS if one exists for it). Maybe go so far as to have a (non-locked) UEFI-type firmware where you can simply install your preferred OS much like you can still (for the time being) install on a standard PC.

      1. tlhonmey

        Re: Rechargeable batteries and also "non-supported hardware"

        These devices already exist. They just cost more. If repairability and open software platforms are important to you then just go find them.

        Purism's Librem 5 is the newest open platform phone that's just entering the market. Be warned though, it'll cost you about twice as much as the comparable closed hardware.

        And if you mandate longer software support terms for closed hardware you'll see a similar price jump. Writing security patches isn't free. The price of the device when you purchase it includes the expected cost of providing support for the specified term. Extend the term, you raise the price. It's that simple really.

  27. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Vintage

    "Obsolete electronics stuffed in the loft"???

    Now, if people hadn't been doing this all along, the retro computing/gaming scene would be well out of luck, wouldn't they?

  28. tlhonmey

    Won't do what people think.

    Thing is that repairable versions of every class of device are already on the market. They're not popular and almost nobody buys them.

    Why not? Well... they're bigger, less powerful, and more expensive. Because leaving enough space in there and using fastening technologies that allow for easy repair takes up more space and costs more.

    So: If people *actually* wanted their devices to be repairable, then they'd be willing to fork over the extra cash for a more repairable model. But that's not what people are prioritizing. They're shopping based on power, small size, and price.

    Support for right to repair comes from people mistakenly thinking that the tiny, powerful, cheap devices that are everywhere but are bloody hard to fix are the result of some kind of industry-wide conspiracy, rather than an outcome of their own shopping choices. They think that if they just pass some legislation then they'll get their cheap, light, powerful device, only now it will be repairable too! Well... No... They'll probably be the first to complain when the price of phones doubles, or the ultra-slim models cease to be available in their country.

    If you want repairable, buy repairable. That's all there is to it. They're easy enough to find. If you shop based on other criteria, then don't complain when it's not repairable.

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