The right to repair: which brands are making it easier for you to fix their products?

Clara V.
Clara V.Published on 14 Feb 2022

What is the right to repair?

With huge technological advancements being made every year, everything from our electronics to our appliances and automobiles are becoming more and more sophisticated. At the same time, manufacturers of a range of products have been making it increasingly difficult for consumers to repair products, for instance by limiting access to parts or by controlling exactly who gets to fix them.

Over the last decade, there’s been a growing right to repair movement that pushes back against these barriers to repair, and tries to stop big companies from forcing consumers to replace items altogether instead of repairing them.

In Australia, the right to repair isn’t specifically enshrined in any legislation, but there is an ongoing assessment into whether there should be laws prohibiting manufacturers from voiding warranties on electronics if customers use repairers who aren’t authorised to by the company.

A man at his desk fixing a laptop.

Why do people want the right to repair their things?

Price is one of the main reasons many Australians want the right to repair. Because there’s little competition in the repair market for certain products, consumers can’t hunt around for a good deal. Of course, tinkerers and repair enthusiasts also want to have better access to parts, tools, and manuals so that they can skip the repair shop altogether and fix their products at home.

Repairing an item rather than replacing it is better news for the planet too. E-waste is a growing problem in Australia, and only a fraction of it is effectively recycled, which is why moving to a more circular economy is seen as an important step to reduce the harm we do to the environment.

On top of that, restrictions on the right to repair can mean longer wait times for repairs and can inhibit business opportunities for independent repair shops who aren’t affiliated with electronics companies.

Across the electronics, appliance, and power tool categories, users who leave product reviews on our site constantly refer to the durability and repairability of a product in their ratings. It makes sense - who wants to invest in a product that will break down after just a few months or years, or that you have to jump through hoops to repair?

Luckily, some brands are starting to listen to consumers.

Companies making it easier to repair their items

HP

Tech company HP has taken big strides to help consumers troubleshoot their problems and perform repairs themselves. They have a HP Parts store on their website, which lets you find the exact part you need for your device, including batteries, AC adaptors, power cords, printheads, and fusers.

As well as providing their own free user-accessible repair documentation, HP also has a series of videos on their HP Support YouTube channel, which goes through how to remove and replace parts for a range of HP products (mostly computers and laptops).

For many of their products, the RAM, SSD, and battery are easy to access and remove. Also, the screws they use are standard Phillips and Torx, so you likely won’t need to invest in niche tools to open them up.

A screenshot of the online HP Parts Store.

Image credit: HP.

Samsung

While Samsung products are far from getting a perfect score for ease of repair, the brand has made it easier with their Samsung Service Packs - complete with genuine Samsung parts - that enable customers to repair certain components of their Samsung smartphone.

Let’s say that you drop your Samsung smartphone and - woops - the screen cracks. According to Samsung’s website, a screen replacement can cost anything from $165 to $510 depending on your phone, with the flip or fold models in the Z Series costing as much as $800 to repair with a Samsung Authorised Service Centre.

Replacing the screen of the Samsung Galazy S21 FE 5G ($1099), for instance, costs $335 to repair through Samsung. However, you can buy a Samsung Service Pack for around $255. If you have the know-how to complete the repair yourself, then that’s around $80 of savings - plus you won’t have to wait around for these repair centres to complete the repair and send the product back to you.

These service packs also make it easier for independent repairers to repair these products for customers, as they have access to genuine parts and don’t have to resort to ‘aftermarket’ parts, which are close to - but not quite - the real deal.

Dyson

Dyson encourages customers to use genuine Dyson parts and accessories to ensure that their products work as intended. You can buy these parts for your machine, whether it’s a vacuum cleaner, hair care product, air treatment product, or lighting product.

For instance, for the V15 Detect, the latest Dyson stick vacuum, you can buy anything from a battery or docking station to v-ball wheels and vacuum attachments. This saves you a trip to a repair centre if you just have a part that needs replacing - plus, each part or tool you buy from Dyson is guaranteed for 12 months.

If you need in-person help, however, you’ll still have to bring your Dyson product to a Dyson Service Centre, as getting it repaired at an unauthorised repairer will void your warranty.

Spare parts may be more readily available than advertised.

It’s common for appliance manufacturers to have spare parts available for you to buy, but sometimes you have to put in a bit of extra effort to seek them out.

Breville is similar to Dyson in that spare parts for its products are listed clearly on its website, but for brands like Russell Hobbs and Smeg, you'll have to contact customer service to buy spare parts - and the prices for these aren’t publicly listed.

Other companies starting to embrace the right to repair

A person using a thin screwdriver to remove internal components of a smartphone.

Microsoft has recently agreed to make it easier for their customers to independently repair their devices, saying that they’ll study the benefits of the right to repair and act on these findings by the end of the year. They also released a video on how to open up their Surface Laptop SE and replace key components, such as the battery and speaker.

It’s a small but welcome step to right to repair advocates that may see more big tech companies follow suit.

Even Apple, a company that typically requires their products to be fixed by repairers within the Apple network, announced Self Service Repair late last year. This will allow individual consumers access to genuine Apple parts and tools, so that they can repair their product themselves.

That means that sometime in 2022, starting with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, Apple users will be able to access the iPhone display, battery, and camera, with additional repairs set to be made available at a later date.

The bottom line

Although the right to repair movement is making big strides in its advocacy, there’s still a long way to go in terms of making it as easy as possible for Australian consumers to repair their products. Until such legislation is in place, it’s good practice to do your own research into a brand before you buy from them to determine not only the durability of a product, but also its repairability.

For now, this seems to be the best way to help ensure that you’re investing in lasting products that won’t make you fork out big bucks for repairs down the track.

You can read reviews for a range of electronics - from mobile phones to laptops - to get started.