Frustrated by planned obsolescence and products that can only be repaired, if at all, by the manufacturer, consumers and local repair shops are increasingly pressuring regulators and legislators for "right to repair" provisions. Many jurisdictions in the US and Europe already have laws requiring that manufacturers make parts, tools, and spec diagrams available to outsiders, but the struggle continues as manufacturers keep coming up with new systems that, intentionally or not, limit what outsiders can do.
The "Right to Repair" movement brings several sorts of complaints together. One is manufacturers designing devices that require special tools or special computer codes to access, hoping thereby to monopolize the repair market. Another is a blanket refusal to sell replacement parts to outsiders. But the biggest is frustration with things not lasting as long as they used to, leading to a "throwaway culture" that wastes resources and encourages fads. The tech industry is of course especially bad here, with technological progress rapidly rendering old devices something only nerdy collectors would want; what can you do with a 20-year-old computer or phone? But there are also lots of complaints about household appliances and other objects.
I have devoted a fair amount of thought and even some research to the appliance problem, after going through three dishwashers in five years. First, the new appliances all have more complex circuit boards in them, or chips, which are partly there to manage energy-saving and water-saving features. (It was the circuit boards that kept failing in our dishwashers.) There is simply not the same amount of engineering know-how for making newly designed circuit boards reliable as there is for valves. Second, there is intense cost pressure, driven partly by offshoring or Korean competition and partly by American consumers' intense focus on price. (It has always bugged me that Americans complain about offshoring or imports but then buy the cheaper Chinese-made products, but that is in fact what we do.)
And third, there is an information problem. In the US there used to be certain brands (Amana, Maytag) that had reputations for quality and reliability; their appliances cost more but people expected them to last a long time. Which are the good brands now? I don't know. And when I tried to find out, from Consumer Reports and others, I entered a contested minefield. Partly because all the manufacturers are buying parts made around the world and constantly re-arranging their supply chains, their products develop new faults every year, or fix old ones, with the result that their quality bounces around. So if you care about buying something that lasts you have to do your research every time, and even then you may find that half the models on the market are too new for anyone to have good quality data on them. Some people respond to this by buying something expensive, hoping that price = quality, but a friend of mine who bought a high-end dishwasher for her newly remodeled kitchen hated it and was actually happy when it died less than two years later and she could replace it.
So, yeah, I understand all these frustrations, which is why I followed up reading this New York Times article with a bit of research; here is the website of the Repair Association. I wonder, though, how much impact all of this can have in a world in which keeping devices going is mostly about insuring their various chips are talking properly to each other; how many local repair shops can do that?