What Right To Repair Gets Wrong
I've written extensively on the concept of "Right to Repair" and where I agree and disagree with it. Repair.org is one of the leading advocates for it, as they often state that you own your device, so you should have the right to seek repair from whomever you choose. Seems logical on the surface, however I am not someone that believes things are as they appear.
From observing R2R, their primary goal is to use government legislation to compel companies like Apple to sell their parts and make their schematics and tools available to everyone. I have been clear that using government power to do this is not ideal, yet it appears that the advocates are unwilling to listen to a different viewpoint. So I blog about it and let you as a consumer decide what's best.
I will say this. Most of the advocates I come across tend to be very young and lack experience in the business world. They seem to be about the principle, but aren't looking at the big picture as to what they are promoting. Quite frankly, I believe they'll make the situation worse, not better, and it's well past time that different perspectives from more experienced business people are examined. I have yet to really see Repair.org or anyone affiliated with them address the potential for consolidation. They claim to be for the little guy, but I'm skeptical that they understand the economics of this situation.
A good case study for everyone, and especially Repair.org, to examine what occurred in the retail pharmacy industry in the 1990s. Simply put, that was an industry that was long served by small independent drug stores. The chains were out there, but many of them were regional operators, not so much national companies. You had People's Drug here in the DC area, Walgreens in the Mid-West, Rite-Aid in Pennsylvania, and so forth. The independents thrived and the entire ecosystem peacefully co-existed. Unfortunately, as managed care became a thing and people had insurance to cover their prescriptions, the independents got squeezed out of the industry for all intensive purposes, and those regional chains grew into large national ones. CVS Caremark and Walgreens are now monsters in that industry and continue to swallow up smaller entities.
Now let's take a look at smartphone repair in the present day. A large percentage are independents like CDC. There are some franchise stores out their, chiefly CPR and uBreakIFix among others. Like retail drug, there has been plenty to go around for everyone, and the ecosystem has worked. But what has happened in 2019? CPR was bought out by Assurant, and uBreakIFix was swallowed by insurance giant Assurion. Best Buy has also gotten in on the action with Apple, and that certainly isn't favorable for independents. I have seen no one talking about this development and what it could mean for the repair industry. I believe it's time to discuss it.
This is where I believe Right to Repair is a problem. Let's assume the advocates are successful and get some state to pass legislation. Do you believe Apple or Samsung will take that lying down? Not likely. Since they're now compelled to do business in a way they do not wish to, they will structure any wholesale program to be to their benefit. We already see the franchises being swallowed up by bigger entities. That's what will happen right there. They'll push the franchises to the top of the food chain with sweetheart volume deals and incentives not available to the independent. We already see this with uBreakIFix and their Samsung repairs. I cannot compete with them, as their prices for screen repair is less than what my cost of parts is.
This is reality folks! Yet no one is talking about it. Right to Repair sounds great, but my concern is that it will create a Wal-Mart like marketplace where the largest entities will crush the small independents. I hope I'm wrong on this, but unfortunately I have history on my side. We really need to rethink this and determine how to truly protect the independents. It does not appear that anyone understands this. Until someone does, I am concerned that Right to Repair is a slippery slope that will lead us in a direction no one planned for.