Are Ontarians about the get the right to repair their smartphones?

Are Ontarians about the get the right to repair their smartphones?
If passed, this would transfer more power into the hands of consumers.

Many Canadians have seen their smartphones suddenly stop working, either due to dropping it or having it simply die. The real trouble comes when we attempt to get it fixed.

Ontario Liberal Party MPP Michael Coteau recently introduced a private member’s motion, Bill 72, Consumer Protection Amendment Act (Right to Repair Electronic Products), 2019, that would force manufacturers to “give a consumer or repair shop what they need to repair the electronic products themselves. The company can charge for this, but within limits.”

“We have all been there and felt the frustration when we crack the screen on our smartphone or when we accidentally spill water on our electronic device causing various malfunctions,” said Coteau, in a press release. “What is even more frustrating is the realization we do not have the right to repair our damaged devices, as many manufacturers today make it nearly impossible for consumers repair products for a reasonable price.”

If passed, consumers in Ontario will no longer be forced to pay exorbitant fees for even a simple fix.

“The legislation proposes that tech companies make diagnostic tools, repair manuals, and official parts available to consumers at their request. The legislation would also require that any new products ship with a repair manual. Documents provided to consumers must be free unless they request paper copies, and parts, tools, and software must be provided at a fair price,” according to a story on Motherboard.

If passed, this would transfer more power into the hands of consumers, argues John Michael McGrath of TVO.

“Coteau’s bill is part of a much broader movement, one that goes beyond cellphones. More and more goods have proprietary electronics embedded in them, and the existing rules around patent, and especially copyright, law have given large corporations an increased amount of control over the products they sell us. The right-to-repair movement is, in part, about asserting the rights of consumers over the business models of large corporations.”

In 2017, Apple fought back against proposed legislation in the U.S., according to Time magazine.

“The iPhone maker and world’s largest public corporation by market capitalization has been lobbying state lawmakers in opposition to the bills. The argument being made against the proposals is that they could result in subpar repair work or, even worse, make consumers vulnerable to hackers.”

The article maintained the company wanted to keep control of the estimated US$4 billion per year repair industry.

Last year, CBC News found that some Apple repair shops in Canada were not being fully honest in dealings with its customers.

“CBC News used a hidden camera to verify reports that Apple customers are often told their malfunctioning computers are not worth fixing, even when minor repairs could remedy the problem.”

“When presented with a MacBook Pro laptop that had a common issue where the screen was not displaying properly, an employee at the Apple Store responded by saying the device would need significant repairs at a cost of more than $1,200.”

Potential horror stories like these show the time is ripe for a new way and Coteau’s proposed law might turn the tide for consumer rights.

However, nothing is guaranteed as the provincial Liberals were reduced to non-party status after the 2018 election. Ontario premier Doug Ford would do well to let this come to fruition, after all isn’t he all about the little guy?

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