iFixit co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens is speaking out against companies including Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, for purposefully making their products more difficult to repair, and for preventing third-party repairers from acquiring replacement parts.
We all know that mobile products have become more difficult to repair due to the increased use of glass and strong adhesives but the problem of reparability goes beyond the product’s design.
During a recent Productivity Commission hearing, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens exposed how manufacturers restrict the ability to repair products by making parts difficult to obtain. It turns out that companies like Samsung have special clauses in their supplier contracts that prevent them from selling replacement parts to third parties.
Supply chain contracts can be a loophole to the right to repair
Kyle Wiens exemplified how supply chain contracts are used to control the flow of replacement parts on the market using Varta — a battery supplier for Samsung.
Samsung uses Varta coin cell batteries for its Galaxy earbuds, which means that, in theory, any third-party repairer should be able to acquire this component with relative ease. It’s just a Varta coin cell battery, after all. However, Wiens clarified that the contract between Samsung and Varta prevents the latter company from selling replacement components.
“[…] when we go to Varta and say ‘can we buy that part as a repair part?’ they’ll say ‘No, our contract with Samsung will not allow us to sell that,'” added Kyle Wiens in an interview with ZDNet.
In other words, it’s nice that the Galaxy Buds are some of the easier-to-repair wireless earbuds on the market, but that doesn’t count for much if replacement parts are virtually impossible to find. It makes for some nice PR, but it doesn’t really help customers.
What’s worrying is that, according to Wiens, more and more suppliers are now signing these types of agreements that prevent them from selling replacement parts.
As for Samsung, the company’s been launching its Door to Door repair service in more markets, so there’s that, even though it doesn’t help in ways of third-party repairability.