The right to repair is a growing aspect of consumer welfare in countries worldwide. India has also undertaken to review this right and inculcate it into the existing consumer welfare framework of the country. But what is the Right to repair?
A consumer’s ‘Right to Repair’ is legislation or regulatory framework which purports to allow owners of electronic devices the freedom to repair and modify their devices through any qualified third party. However, a large degree of electronics manufacturers design products, warranties, and user agreements binding customers to only use their offered services.
In July 2022, the Department of Consumer Affairs directed a mandate to Ms. Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary to develop a comprehensive framework for the same.
The jurisprudence for the Right to Repair originated from the United States of America's Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act of 2012. This comprehensive regulation required vehicle manufacturers to provide all technical information and necessary documents to allow a competent third party to repair the vehicle.
A direct implication of this is that the manufacturer can determine their own prices and standards as the services are not subject to market competition. Further, these services can vary in waiting periods, and availability and limit the scope of the end product, at the arbitrary will of the manufacturer.
While the right to repair is an essential one, it will have to strike a balance between the needs of consumers to have products modified or repaired by a third party while the product itself remains safe to use and compliant with its technical and legal norms. In this manner, it is essential to strike a balance between both.
The right to repair is an essential aspect of competition control regimes and their close intersection with the Post Sale Service Industry which also bolsters technological innovation.
The current proposed framework would require all applicable product manufacturers to provide detailed information about the product to enable the consumer to have the product repaired by a third-party services provider who is recognized for the same by a neutral regulatory body, in a manner that is safe, cost-effective, and consumer friendly. It is likely that the proposed framework in its nascent form will apply to farming equipment, Mobile Phones, Computers, Automobiles, and other Consumer Durables.
The right to repair has been recognized by the United Kingdom, and the USA, and a European Union resolution as well. The proposed framework will deliver a major boon to the existing trade channels between Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and third-party service providers.
Affording third-party service providers to replace specific parts, at prices controlled by the competition of the industry will significantly reduce the generation of electronic waste.
Trends of ‘Planned Obsolescence’ by manufacturers wherein products are designed to not last long and intern return the customer to the manufacturer at faster intervals will be hindered, while their monopoly over existing customers will also diminish.
India, while having a quickly growing business and manufacturing industry, still cannot ensure the provision of round-the-clock authorized service centers in many smaller and remote areas. The Right to Repair law will eliminate the implications of such scarcity while also increasing the customer base. The legislation also aims at providing a wide variety of jobs to technically skilled labor who may begin working in the product service sector when the opportunities within the sector increase drastically.