India plans new ‘right to repair’ rule for gadgets

Updated on Jul 15, 2022 04:30 AM IST

According to a statement from the ministry of consumer affairs on Thursday, gadget manufacturers may soon have to mandatorily offer repair services for their products, from mobile phones to laptops, as a consumer right.

By, New Delhi

Gadget manufacturers may soon have to mandatorily offer repair services for their products, from mobile phones to laptops, as a consumer right. The ministry of consumer affairs has set up a committee to come up with a comprehensive framework on a “right to repair”, an official statement said on Thursday.

The step could alter the landscape for tech maintenance, cutting costs for conked-out devices. Unlike car makers, mobile-phone companies often don’t provide original repair options, forcing consumers to entirely replace malfunctioning parts or make a new purchase. This could change.

“Farming equipment, mobile phones/ tablets, consumer durables and automobiles/automobile equipment among sectors have been identified for the right to repair by the committee,” the ministry said in its statement.

Consumer studies, such as a 2017 survey by Mostafa Sabbaghi of the University at Buffalo, have shown that when tech products falter, most consumers replace them with newer ones because fixing faulty devices reliably is difficult. Often, manufacturers don’t reveal full servicing information.

In the US, for instance, President Joe Biden in 2021 had issued an executive order that “included a directive for limits on how tech manufacturers could restrict repairs”, according to a New York Times report.

The aim of the new framework on right to repair in India is to empower consumers and product buyers in the local market, an official said. It also seeks to harmonise trade between the original-equipment manufacturers and third-party buyers and sellers.

“Once it is rolled out in India, it will become a game-changer both for the sustainability of the products and as well as serve as a catalyst for employment generation through Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) by allowing third-party repairs,” the official said.

The committee, which met on Wednesday, felt tech companies should provide complete knowledge and access to manuals, schematics and software updates, the official said. “Software license shouldn’t limit the transparency of the product in sale. The parts and tools to service devices, including diagnostic tools should be made available to third parties, including individuals so that the product can be repaired if there are minor glitches,” the statement stated.

“In the West, this is an ongoing battle between firms and consumer-rights activists, with governments increasingly becoming sensitive to a demand for reliable repairs, not mere replacements of faulty parts,” said Sajid Ali of the Internet Consumers’ Forum, a Bengaluru-based NGO.

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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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