Corporations say you can't repair products you own because they care so much about your safety

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's companies virtue signalling to the public via the media about their efforts to become a more sustainable corporation. In other words, shouting about how ethical they are whilst slyly doubling down on their dubious business practices.

It's funny how manufacturers suddenly care about their social and environmental impact when the courts get involved.

“Samsung is continually offering more convenient options for consumers to extend the use of their devices, promote a circular economy, and minimize e-waste. Samsung Self-Repair is another way for customers to prolong the life of their devices, before they are recycled,” said Mark Williams, Vice President of Customer Care at Samsung Electronics America.

Sounds good. Let's take a look...

Note: This program is in the US (where Right To Repair is happening), so the example is in dollars.

The one part which is 100% guaranteed to die or degrade in your device is the battery.

You can buy a replacement battery for your Galaxy S20 via Samsung's self-repair program... for $206.99. Why so much? They adhere the battery to the screen assembly with industrial strength glue (which is completely unnecessary btw), and insist that it is would be too dangerous to remove. Therefore, when you replace the battery, you must also replace the the screen and housing - which, by the way, is the most expensive component.

See also this refurbished Galaxy S20 on Ebay for $198.00.

A battery by itself should really cost about $30.00 - $35.00.

Do you think this is a fair and honourable attempt to make the product user-repairable? Or is it a way to signal to the public and legislators that they care about sustainability, whilst simultaneously forcing consumers into buying a new device.

These programs are not intended to make it easier and more economical for the end user to fix their device, but rather an attempt to appease the Right To Repair movement. It's a lousy peace offering to their critics.

The Right to Repair bill, was bought in to "enhance consumer options in the repair markets by granting them greater access to the parts, tools and documents needed for repairs. Encouraging consumers to maximize the lifespan of their devices through repairs is a laudable goal to save money and reduce electronic waste."  This bill received overwhelming support and was signed into law in New York.

Then, governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, made a last minute amendment to the legislation, which enables OEMs to forego the sale of individual components, and instead provide parts assemblies if they deem it "unsafe" or "an injury risk".

A convenient loophole which makes the bill practically useless...

Hey, we'll provide the part you need to repair your device because we really do care about e-waste and product life cycles. But you're going to have to buy it in a frame, along with several other parts which you don't need, because we're so concerned with your safety. Oh by the way you could just buy a new device for like £30.00 more.

Why is this such a big deal? It demonstrates the giant corporations' ability to pull the wool over our eyes - who will happily continue taking your money whilst destroying the environment. This will spread across industries, to the point where we'll be throwing our computers, TVs and refrigerators into landfill every two years, because the manufacturer has intentionally made it uneconomical, difficult, impossible, or even illegal (yes, against the law) to repair something that's broken.

This is the trajectory that we are on.

Imagine this: You get a flat tyre. You take your car to the garage - who would love to buy and fit a quality new tyre from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, the manufacturer doesn't sell tyres, and they cannot use an aftermarket product, because the wheel is attached to the axle with a secure locking mechanism. The only option it to buy and fit a brand new drivetrain. Again, you cannot buy from an aftermarket manufacturer because the drivetrain is serialised via an encrypted chip, meaning the car will not start unless it detects the correct chip.

Congratulations, your flat tyre just set you back £4000.

They have complied with the law by allowing independent garages to purchase replacement parts, yet insist on replacing the entire assembly, with their parts, for your safety. 

Manufacturers should have no say in what you do with your product after sale. It creates an incentive to produces a poorly designed product, which discourages or prevents maintenance and incentivises replacement.

For cheap disposable products - sure, not a big deal. For large and/or expensive equipment - it's a total disaster.

Thanks for reading!

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