Do You Own Your Possessions?

by Michael Sudomier Michael Sudomier | Oct 31, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Imagine a world where you spend your hard earned money to purchase a brand new item such as a computer, car, phone, washer, drier, and the list goes on.  You suddenly find out after needing to repair or modify your device or item you are not able to. This brings up an important question Do we even own the device?

If you have not experienced this feeling one day you will and it is becoming more common everyday. If we do not do something to stop this it will get  worse before it gets better. Please read the blog below and check out my video!

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Today I am going to speak to you taking control of our possessions, the right to repair and why its important to you the consumer. I will explain how this can and will impact you one way or the other. First I will take you back to the times when you would purchase an item such as a washer, drier, car, TV, cellular telephone and when you purchased the item you would actually own it. When I say own it, I mean you would have the ability to do what you please with the item you purchased, including but not limited to taking it apart, modify it and so on. When it broke or started to not work properly you could fix the item yourself or take it to a repair place of your choosing. Manufacturers used to gladly package products with the schematics and a troubleshooting guides  to allow the user/owner of the device to make changes and repair the item, and the direction has been changing over the last decade.

So what is the issue you might ask? The answer  is complex and I will do my best to explain first I will start with what is changing. Slowly manufacturers have been creating roadblocks when it comes to the ability to fix items. An example I will start off with is smart phones! We most likely use one and if we do not we know someone who does. These devices can cost between $500-$1000+ of your hard earned money, and you want that item to last. However manufacturers have limited the ability to repair and find components which typically go bad, for example the battery. Cell phones at one time had removable batteries and you could easily repair or replace the battery yourself or at a local repair shop you trust. Cell phone manufacturers have been creating roadblocks such as creating component monopolies, planned obsolescence, and making some components impossible to obtain, or remove such the battery. Replacing a battery yourself or at a repair shop can cost approx $50-$200, however with manufacturers limiting the availability of parts, the shop or person who can do the repair, how complex the repair is, you are stuck with limited options such as taking the phone to the manufacturer for a repair cost of $200- $400 with a longer wait time vs buying a new phone from a manufacturer for $500-$1000 repairing that old phone might just not be worth it to many consumers. This also impacts the environment by creating additional e-waste. According to "electronic waste is now the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Americans purchase about 160 million new smartphones each year a habit that takes some 23.7 million tons of raw material to satisfy. Continuing to extract, produce and consume electronics at this rate is simply not sustainable."

However this problem is larger than phones, this impacts car parts, local car repair businesses, appliances, local appliance repair businesses, farmers, medical equipment, students, school books, etc the list goes on and on. Repair businesses have been a large part of the local business infrastructure for many years and the inability to repair products or being subject to waiting weeks for the manufacturer to fix your device to give you a repair bill of 2x-3x what you would normally pay is not the only option I want and it definitely doesn't feel like ownership. To further this point, how do you ship a broken washing machine to the manufacturer? the cost of buying a new one is most likely cheaper. Imagine a farmer who is in the middle of harvest and his harvester goes bad, that farmer who used to be able to fix this own equipment or use a local repair company will now have to wait potentially weeks for the tractor manufacturer to come fix his harvester! Does the farmer really own that Machinery? The impact is larger than the  farmer, it impacts food prices, local farmers markets, local repair businesses. According to "When manufacturers own the only repair shop around, prices go up and quality goes down. Competition is better for customers, but mom and pop repair shops are struggling with unfair practices by multinational corporations"

This brings me to my original point of when you exchange money for a good/ property you should have full control over that item. With manufacturers placing limits on the use of the items, availability of parts, distribution, schematics, and expanding this to being able to void warranties for self repair with limited repair options do you really own your property? or your data? According to data from your car that used to be accessible by repair shops through OBD2 port on the car is being transitioned to wireless transmission and  "While access to this data could provide many benefits to car owners, currently the data is sent only to the vehicle manufacturer who then serves as gatekeeper for the data"  This will do little to help the consumer and will increase cost to repair on the consumers end by limited who has access and how much to charge for access to this data.   My expectation is we should have the option to modify the device or in the event the device breaks, have the option to decide who we want to fix the item when it breaks or needs servicing. With the lack of options it appears we have little to any ownership control of the device purely just the ability to use the device, and even then we must sign terms of service and EULA agreements to use products we purchase, and these agreements limit the use of that product. The current landscape is transitioning to a rent model where we as the users simply subscribe to services but have no other rights to the items we are paying for.

You may be asking yourself where do I start, how can I fix this? The answer is just as complex as the problem. The first thing to do is research the right to repair and how it impacts you! Second thing to do is push back on the manufacturers for easier more serviceable devices and goods using your consumer voice and the power of the internet to collaborate with others who have similar beliefs. You could also sign petitions supporting the right to repair, and support right to repair groups such as,, are all fighting for the right to repair for you and many others.


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About the author:

Mike Sudomier is an advocate for the right to repair, as a hobby enjoys do it yourself projects and learning general knowledge.  When Mike is not doing these things he is doing “employment tasks” at his place of employment making sure the company is complying with federal, state and local regulations.

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