On Friday, Sept. 30, a group of community fixers, tinkerers, repair businesses and environmental advocates from around the world gathered outside of the Apple store in Brussels, Belgium as part of the Global FixFest conference. The goal of the event was to highlight a growing international movement against manufacturers foisting electronics on the world without also offering the ability to repair them.
I thought Ugo Vallauri, co-founder of the London-based Restart Project, summed it up perfectly, as he addressed the crowd gathered in the busy street: “Enough is enough.”
We have enough “stuff” already, and we are fed up with the variety of ways that manufacturers undermine our ability to fix or maintain products as they unendingly push us to purchase newer devices.
The conference brought together people working on Right to Repair campaigns around the world as well as the community repair organizations that offer free repair events (where people can bring broken products and get help from an expert in fixing them). Here are some of the highlights.
Right to Repair policies are making progress around the globe
It’s been an exciting year for our work on Right to Repair in the United States — we’ve passed new laws in New York and Colorado, had multiple hearings in Congress, seen long-awaited Right to Repair action from the Federal Trade Commission and run multiple successful campaigns to get corporations to do the right thing. But progress has hardly been limited to America.
The event featured an extended discussion of new draft smartphone Right to Repair regulations at the European Union. As I briefly outlined in an earlier piece, those rules included some meaningful gains, but campaigners from Repair.eu, the coalition of Right to Repair advocates in the EU, are pressing for more.
For example, EU campaigners are seeking to get manufacturers to stop price gouging on spare parts and stop limiting repair materials to certain “professional repairers,” and instead make them available to everyone, including consumers.
We heard about new automobile Right to Repair rules in Australia and South Africa and other progress in Australia. In addition, there is a new framework in India to empower independent repair and prevent manufacturers from restricting competition.
Mathew Dukson, who leads a community repair program in a refugee camp in Uganda, talks about the struggles they have to get parts and service information.
Repairers starting to see their work as a rebellion against thoughtless consumption
Over the last decade, thousands of communities have launched Repair Cafes, Fixit Clinics or Restart Parties. And while these community events started as practical service projects, to help address community need for repair, I have noticed a growing awareness from these organizations about the need to engage in policy fights to protect repair access.
“When the system is telling you to constantly throw things away, that everything is disposable — to repair is an act of rebellion,” noted Cristina Ganapini a campaigner for Repair.eu.
FixFest featured extended discussions about how these community events can educate and mobilize people to push for political change. I led one such discussion about how we can target manufacturers with coordinated campaigns around the world.
Nathan Proctor discusses coordinated global Right to Repair campaigns at FixFest.
The companies that make our stuff are often global brands, selling their products around the world. What would it look like if people around the world pushed back when they refuse to allow people to access the parts, information or tools needed to fix those products?
We often say, “Think globally, act locally.” Not often do I get the chance to see what our local actions actually mean to the global community — how our work in states across the country to advocate for Right to Repair reforms impacts fixers from around the world and vice versa. But those actions do make an impact, and it’s all the more reason that I and my PIRG colleagues around the country will keep pushing for local Right to Repair reforms around the U.S.
After all, “Enough is enough.”
Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG
Nathan leads U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers’ ability to fix their own electronics. Nathan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.