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Column

Guidry: Right to repair laws gain momentum

Triona Guidry
Triona Guidry

Several states, including Illinois, are considering right to repair laws, which help to ensure a consumer’s right to have technology repaired instead of replaced. By encouraging manufacturers to make parts and facilities easily available, right to repair laws can reduce
consumer costs and electronic waste.

Have you ever been told that it’s more expensive to repair than replace your computer or phone, or that making your own repairs will void the warranty? This is where right to repair laws come in. Those who support right to repair say that all consumers should be able to access affordable parts and services so that they may make repairs themselves or have them done by a third party. They point out the benefits of mom-and-pop repair shops, which have all but fallen by the wayside in favor of large-scale manufacturer repair centers. Thus, right to repair helps consumers by encouraging varied repair options.

Right to repair also applies to people who want to tinker with their devices. Many manufacturers say that opening the case or trying your own repairs or upgrades may void your warranty. But the ability to experiment with hardware can promote innovation. If it weren’t for experimentation, much of the technology we use today might not exist.

Right to repair affects more than just consumers. Some of the most vocal proponents of right to repair are farmers, who find themselves locked into expensive service warranties for their tractors and other farm equipment. Right to repair laws would give them a wider variety of options for repairing their machinery.

Repairing instead of replacing equipment also means less electronic waste. There’s no sense in throwing out an entire device that only needs a simple repair. Many otherwise functional devices end up thrown away when repairing them could keep them going.

We’d all like to postpone repairs as long as possible. Your best bet is taking good physical care of your device. Use a case and screen protector, and avoid spills and crumbs. If you do spill on your device, wipe it off and let it drip dry as best as you can. You can clean the exterior with a soft cloth, but avoid solvents unless they specifically are designed for electronics.

If you need to take your device in for repair, try to back it up first if possible.

You don’t want your private information in the hands of people you don’t know. You also never know if the repair procedure may involve resetting your device to the factory default, which will wipe your data. You even could end up with an entirely new replacement device. This is why it’s so important to back up on a regular basis, so you always have a current copy if unexpected repairs are needed.

For information on right to repair, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation at eff.org or The Repair Association at repair.org.

If you need to dispose of a nonfunctional device, use one of our local electronics recycling resources. You’ll find information on the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County’s
website
.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer. Her Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com offers help and advice for Windows and Mac users.

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