ACS should definitely have a voice in ‘right to repair’, a survey of ACS members has found.

A ‘right to repair’ relates to the ability of consumers to have their products repaired at a competitive price by the repairer of their choice.

The Commonwealth’s Productivity Commission is currently holding an inquiry into Right to Repair and calling for submissions by Monday 1 February 2021.

A survey of ACS members has voted strongly to support this, with 98 per cent of respondents saying this should be an issue “ACS should have a voice in”.

For the ICT profession, the ‘right to repair’ is an important issue, as common household devices now feature extensive computing functions.

Further, the rise of the IoT, smart city technologies and embedded industrial systems means industry and governments are exposed to financial and operational risks through practices like restrictive licensing, ‘vendor lock-in’, and planned obsolescence.

The anonymous survey was conducted over two weeks in December and drew 46 responses.

“Opponents of right to repair often justify this on ‘security grounds’, incorrectly stating that opening up platforms will breach IP,” wrote one survey respondent.

“This is absolutely not true, as the electronics used by most products are off-the-shelf products and software can be protected through other means such as disablement of reading a flash chip (Apple does this today with their MacBooks, if you attempt to read the chip, it self-destructs).

“It also propagates the idea that somehow consumers are being ‘protected’ by big business resisting this movement, rather than the reality that it is opposed mainly for profiteering reasons, whilst continuing the throwaway culture that inevitably leads to financial hardship, climate change and significant wastage of resources.”

Another respondent wrote “planned obsolescence should be criminalised” and that “companies should not be allowed to record your hardware architecture and require you to re-authenticate software licensing each time the hardware changes.”

The inquiry is considering issues around the rights of Australians to repair devices, including the barriers and enablers of competition in repair markets and the costs and benefits of a regulated ‘right to repair’, including facilitating access to embedded software in consumer and other goods.