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“Right to repair” is about more than DIY
Jul 13, 2021
Episode 473

“Right to repair” is about more than DIY

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Even if you don't want to fix your own phone, or tractor, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens wants you to have the option. Rule makers are starting to agree.

When iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens explains the “right to repair,” he looks to a farm near his home on California’s central coast.

“They tell me if they need to replace the transmission in their F-150 pickup, they can. If they needed to do that exact same repair on their John Deere tractors, they can’t because John Deere won’t give them the software,” Wiens said. “They can physically install a new transmission, but they can’t make it work.”

The same principle applies to the billion iPhones out in the world. If the phone’s glass backing breaks, Wiens said, the only way to get a replacement is take it back to Apple — and it’s not cheap. You might be tempted to just buy a new one instead.

Wiens’ company provides repair instructions, parts and tools for all kinds of devices, so he has both an ideological and financial interest in empowering people to fix their own stuff. It’s an idea that’s gaining political steam. President Joe Biden directed the Federal Trade Commission to draft rules limiting companies’ ability to restrict repairs, and some 27 states are considering their own legislation, with bipartisan support.

You might not want to get under the hood of a tractor (or an iPhone), but on today’s show Wiens talks us through the wide-ranging implications of right to repair — for competition, for the environment and for the long-term value of the stuff we buy. We’ll also talk about the roadblocks to the right to repair movement’s big moment.

Later in the show, we’ll talk about what happened to Lordstown Motors’ electric car dream and get some listener feedback on last week’s episodes. Plus, European Union Commissioner Margrethe Vestager answers the Make Me Smart question.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week, we’re explaining droughts, the NBA salary cap and Bastille Day. You can hear them all here. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer