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Appliance Companies Are Lobbying To Protect Their DRM-Fueled Repair Monopolies (vice.com) 143

Electronics companies Dyson, LG, and Wahl are fighting right-to-repair legislation, Motherboard reported Wednesday, citing letters it has obtained. From a report: The manufacturers of your appliances do not want you to be able to fix them yourself. Last week, at least three major appliance manufacturers -- Dyson, LG, and Wahl -- sent letters to Illinois lawmakers opposing "fair repair" legislation in that state. The letters were written with the help of a trade group called the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). All three letters are similar but include slightly different wording and examples in parts. The letters ask lawmakers to "withdraw" a bill that would protect and expand the ability for consumers and independent repair professionals to repair everything from iPhones to robot vacuums, electric shavers, toasters, and tractors. Here are links to the Wahl, Dyson, and LG letters.
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Appliance Companies Are Lobbying To Protect Their DRM-Fueled Repair Monopolies

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  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:29PM (#56502601)

    hell Linus Tech Tips can't even pay for repairs after opening the imac pro. so we really laws before car manufacturers say that you went to a non dealer place to get an oil change so no repair for you buy a new car.

    • by R0b0t1 ( 5381859 )

      The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act [wikipedia.org] means that if a warranty is offered at all, it may not be forfeited by an attempt to repair the device yourself or by hiring someone else to attempt a repair. All of those "warranty void if removed" stickers are invalid, and the practices of most car dealerships are illegal.

      Kind of strange to see the direction of comments on this post (mostly below), as an article [slashdot.org] on this exact subject was posted fairly recently.

      I personally think that existing law extends even further. If a r

  • This is intriguing! I had no idea that my shaver and vacuum had digital content! Here I thought that they were a simple battery connected to a fancy tiny motor that either connected to a worm drive or made this fancy cyclone effect. The idea of playing music on my vacuum while I perform house chores is an interesting concept though. Saves me from having to figure out where I put my Walkman and which CD I want to play. OP please enlighten which models offer DRM?

    • They manage "rights" digitally, just not your rights.

      • You thought DRM had something to do with digital rights?
        DRM stands for digital restriction mechanism — an accurate description of what it does, I believe.

    • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:42PM (#56502677)
      They're trying to get in on the sweet revenue stream John Deere [vice.com] cooked up.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Haven't you seen the Dyson ads where they say its got a "digital motor V10" or whatever it is?

    • by suutar ( 1860506 )

      you haven't seen Dyson calling their motors digital?

    • by lsllll ( 830002 )
      You laugh, but a law passes on the side of these three asshole corporations, they'll be the first ones to DRM a series of 10 notes (think the little intro that comes when you turn your phone (mine's Samsung) on) and have your vacuum cleaner play that song every time you turn it on, just so that their device would fall under the "unrepairability" protection.
    • Here you go. From the EEVBlog [duckduckgo.com].
    • You're having the same confusion everyone else has at first and then gets around if they look into the issue long enough rather than dismissing it. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but it only sounds ridiculous because people tend to be ok with cognitively separating tech products from non-techproducts, but have a hard time applying the same logic to IOT devices because they grew up with all of those devices not having the same electronic/computational capabilities. Now that every device is a computer, it throws

  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:36PM (#56502637)

    Fuck them and their unrepairable junk. They have competitors.

    • They have competitors

      Competitors who support your ability to repair yourself? Hate to say it, but no they don't.

      Don't confuse the silence of others to align with your interests.

  • by Sebby ( 238625 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:38PM (#56502655)

    All these manufacturers that want to ban right to repair laws should be forced to provide a minimum of five years warranty repair on any hardware, and seven years guaranteed continuous software updates.

    And any planned obsolescence that falls before either one should guarantee a brand new device to the consumer, which includes full warranty on that product as if it was purchased new.

    • As if the warranty ever covered anything beyond manufacturing defects. Even then they weasel out of honoring the warranty.

      • Samsung induction ranges hit the market with a design flaw that has the burners a quarter inch too far from the top. Samsung refuses to repair it. It's a 3000 dollar range.

        • Another induction range problem is from Electrolux. they display an E15 error, and the solution is to replace a board for $900 that will "maybe" fix the problem. That range also costs $3000

    • by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @06:00PM (#56502779) Homepage Journal

      All these manufacturers that want to ban right to repair laws should be forced to provide a minimum of five years warranty repair on any hardware, and seven years guaranteed continuous software updates.

      WTF?! From what orifice did you pull those arbitrary numbers from?

      If they're going to use copyright law to make maintenance illegal, then the free warranty should be 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation [copyright.gov]. That is how long they are demanding that it be illegal for you to repair your items. Once the copyright on the firmware (or whatever bullshit it is) expires, then circumventing the DRM ceases to be prohibited by DMCA and the warranty can end.

      • by Sebby ( 238625 )

        If they're going to use copyright law to make maintenance illegal, then the free warranty should be 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation [copyright.gov]. That is how long they are demanding that it be illegal for you to repair your items.

        Good point.

  • Ordered parts on Amazon and repaired my LG washing machine myself just this week.. What's the problem with repairing appliances?

    I suppose that a 10 year old washing machine with a bad water inlet valve is not exactly like fixing your 72" OLED TV or finding parts for the latest Apple device that doesn't get deactivated by the next software update, but do we really need laws for this?

    In my experience, most "appliances" phones, tablets and laptops are pretty much throw away consumer devices that you toss and

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:59PM (#56502771)

      That it's actively being discouraged by some manufacturers by making repairs as difficult as possible if not impossible.
      Not just that they don't make parts available they go out of their way to sabotage use of the parts people can get.

      Yes. Yes we do need laws

      Do we own the device or are we just renting it?
      Because the receipt says we own it.

      Most phones, tablets, laptops can still be repaired although some make it much more difficult than it needs to be.
      I've heard some of the windows tablets are epoxied together so even the manufacturer can't repair them.

      Usually they last a long time but they are also usually pretty expensive so most would prefer not to have to chunk a $700 device for a $0.50 part.

      IMHO the right to repair should extend to software so being able to load your own os on your phone when the manufacturer decides there is no longer any money in it should be possible.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I work for a Fortune 500 company and we DO do this with software. When we employ a new enterprise software we make the company send all of the source code, etc. to an escrow that holds it for us indefinitely. Should the company that wrote the software go out of business, we legally get full rights to maintain and compile the code ourselves. We have a giant legal department that does all kinds of cool shit like this (that individuals could never pull off themselves.)

      • "Usually they last a long time but they are also usually pretty expensive so most would prefer not to have to chunk a $700 device for a $0.50 part."

        It's been like this for a long time though. Nissan has a problem with Sentras/Sunnys back in the 80s where a 5c part failure deep in the gearbox wrote the car off because the labour cost was higher than the replacement gearbox (and usually higher than the value of the car when the part failed - wouldn't have been so bad but not having reverse is kind of limiting

        • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

          Not everything is intentionally designed to be difficult to service/replace some things like the head gasket (another dirt cheap part that costs a ton in labor to replace) are overly difficult to get to just as to how they have to be made.

          Plus I'm assuming that if you had the hours to burn you could actually replace the part yourself without having to break anything in the car to do so or risking that the car's brakes would stop working after a software update because you got them replaced at a local mechan

    • It's also my experience that most non-durable consumer devices like phones, TV's and laptops last long enough that by the time they break I want to replace them

      Most new-car buyers trade them in for something new after 3 years, but would you buy a car with zero resale value after 3 years? Maybe you can afford to trash older stuff, but many people sell them for, like, money. Obviously, making repairs cost-prohibitive kills that secondary market.

      It's also my experience that most "durable goods" (Like kitchen appliances and such that go 10+ years) usually last long enough to be worthless before they break.

      Speak for yourself. All the "durable" appliances I've bought in the last 10 years have needed out-of-warrantee service before 10 years. Well before.

      • It's also my experience that most "durable goods" (Like kitchen appliances and such that go 10+ years) usually last long enough to be worthless before they break.

        Speak for yourself. All the "durable" appliances I've bought in the last 10 years have needed out-of-warrantee service before 10 years. Well before.

        Buy better stuff and take care of it maybe... I've had two minor repairs to the washer/dryer pair we purchased 10 years ago now. I was able to diagnose and repair both myself. The dryer had a temperature limit switch fail, repair parts where about $20 but only because I wasn't sure which of the two possible parts it was so I replaced both. The Washer needed $70 worth of water inlet valves, again only one was bad but I replaced both. I had a garbage disposal go bad after 15 years (outside of 10 years)

        • If you get lucky and buy the right model and/or live in an area with few power fluctuations, this can happen. When buying my refrigerator, most of the reviews for almost every model and every brand were showing failures at the 2-3 year mark. I've hit 3.5 years so far, but there is truly a lot of junk out there and worse - most of it is highly susceptible to voltage variation or tiny power spikes.

          • truly a lot of junk out there and worse

            It's like the situation with US-made cars in the 1970's & 80's: pure junk dressed up in ever-increasing glitter & features.

            I can only hope for an analogous market correction: the Japanese came into the market with the "naive" idea that quality would sell cars. Fast forward a number of years and I see that Ford are essentially throwing in the towel in the passenger-car market.

            • "Fast forward a number of years and I see that Ford are essentially throwing in the towel in the passenger-car market."

              In the USA, domestic automakers can afford to do this because of the Chicken Tax.

              The reason America loves its trucks, vans and SUVs is because it's been told to love them and that's because the USA is a captive market for such vehicles - anything imported in these categories has a 23% import duty applied (vs 2% for cars).

              Thanks to lack of competition (the "foreign" makes competing in these

              • unintended consequences

                Unintended... are you sure about that? The mark of a good lobbyist is that they leave no fingerprints.

        • Buy better stuff and take care of it maybe.

          #1 And exactly how to "better... take care" of a washer, dryer, fridge, etc. aside from plugging them in and keeping 'em clean? Maybe play Mozart for them? Massages? Subliminal pep talks? Playdates with Alexa?

          #2 "Better" stuff? Top-rated Maytag fridge failed within warranty. I commented to the factory tech (an older guy) that maybe I should have bought an expensive Subzero or Viking. He just laughed! Said in his experience those are the most failure-prone of the lot, that they tend to require the most exten

          • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

            Top-rated Maytag fridge failed within warranty. I commented to the factory tech (an older guy)

            Whoa! That lonely Maytag repairman really does exist!

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          In other words, you'r major appliances needed a repair before they were even 10 years old. Fortunately, they were built before the repair lockdown was complete, so you were able to source the replacement parts and didn't need any sort of special licence to incorporate the new parts into the system.

          Might you feel differently had you been forced to buy a new washer and dryer or pay a certified and authorized repairman 75% of their new cost? Because that's what Right To Repair is legislating against.

          Perhaps yo

          • In appliances like washers and dryers? Really?

            The design of these things hasn't really changed all that much in decades. I seriously don't think that they have changed all that much engineering wise because there isn't any money in it. Sure, the control boards with the attached switches have changed, but I can tell you a couple of things you look for when buying.

            First, NO pressure switches on the user interface. You know, those "buttons" that look like bubbles? DON'T buy them, they wear out quickly. Bu

            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              You're not paying attention. Just think back a bit to the time there WAS no control board. You could actually repair the old clockwork sequencer using common household tools. Now, the sequencer (the control board) mostly can't be repaired, just replaced. And you can't really just throw any old controller in there, you need a specific one.

              On our old washing machine, there was a simple switch to stop it if the lid was lifted, Any switch would do or you could just twist the wires together and accept the risk.

          • you were able to source the replacement parts

            The other trick they've implemented is that replacement "parts" are available... as entire expensive subassemblies. Any Right to Repair laws will have to prohibit unreasonable pricing of parts, but their trick is that you can't accuse them of gouging if the subassembly is not unreasonably priced for what it is.

            Clutch on my washer burned out. Though easily removed, part is not available separately but no problem: there's an entire new transmission unit which includes clutch. It's $150 if you shop carefully o

        • "I know a bunch of people who buy cheap stuff or don't take care of things"

          These days, sale price is not a good indicator of internal quality.

          One of the interesting things about Remington razors is that the first thing that Victor Kamen ("I liked it so much I bought the company") did after purchase was to more than double the sale prices with no other changes - playing to the perception about price and quality.

          You can see this in the long term reliability of certain german "premium" car brands.

          • True, you CAN pay too much for crap.... But, you are not usually going to get quality at bargain basement prices either.

            However, if you forego the high pressure sales pitches and follow a couple of simple rules, you are less likely to get taken paying premium prices for crap equipment.

            My best advice is to buy your appliances from a non-national big box supplier, but comparison shop for the similar models at your local retailer. Shop between manufacturers online and find multiple options that are in your p

    • John Deere is doing this with their tractors.
      Don't fool yourself that newer washing machines won't have ID chips in the water valves, so they can ensure genuine parts are used to repair it from authorised repair agents.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      The trend is away from such repairability. You were able to repair a machine made 10 years ago, but you might have been out of luck if it had been 2 years old.

      Imagine how annoying (to say the least) it would have been if that inlet valve did a cryptographic handshake with the main board and instead of the machine working again, it displayed "E35" and shut down. That may seem far-fetched, but some very expensive new devices will do something very much like that.

      As for the other devices, accidents happen. Why

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Meanwhile for last 3 decades or around there the drum mantra from technical literates has been "do not buy DRM products! it will be used against you!"

    And what has the public done? In every domain it can imagine? Bought the DRM. Games, media, tractors, phones, you name it.

    Gee, however could we have seen this coming? Oh wait, we DID. And we warned, and were ignored.

  • by AlanBDee ( 2261976 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @05:46PM (#56502711)

    I've an uncle who was an appliance repairman. He explained that the manufacturers deliberately build and design the components to be non-standard. Then they'll get a patient on the part so that 3rd parties can't build them. Then they raised the price for the parts to be so high that it's often cheaper to buy a new item then to fix the one you have.

    This is why, he explained, that my parents had the refrigerator they bought with their house for 30 years while my brother was on his third in 15 years. When I showed him 3D printers he went to a tech school and is now a machinist.

    I'm fine with the manufacturers requiring authorized repairs while the item is still under warranty. But once that warranty is out then it should be repairable by anyone. What I hope will happen is that open communities like https://www.ifixit.com/ [ifixit.com] will continue to flourish.

    • by ras ( 84108 ) <russell-slashdot&stuart,id,au> on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @06:30PM (#56502965) Homepage

      The most egregious example I've come across is my shiny new Hyundai i30. They have proximity keys. You can buy the blank for around $100 or so, and most locksmiths will program them for a few dollars. But they need to get the secret code to match it to the car's Engine Control Unit. Obtaining that is a 60 second task for a Hyundai dealership, but they won't tell other locksmiths what it is. So you can only obtain the key from Hyundai: Cost: $1,500.

      The price is not too far from what they charge for a ECU, which is not too surprising because the other route you can take is to replace the ECU and keys.

      • by AaronW ( 33736 )

        Which is insane. The replacement cost for a key fob for a Tesla model S is $200. This includes the programming of the new fob to the car at the service center. Mine recently had one of the buttons stop working, though with no questions asked they replaced it under the extended warranty free of charge.

        This reminds me of how expensive it was to deal with Toyota when I had my Prius. After I sold it to my parents the touch screen stopped accepting touch input. Toyota wanted $5000 to replace the MFD (touchscreen

  • This is why I've held on to my 12 yr old Mitsubishi DLP TV. It's 65" and still a great 1080p image. Yeah, I have to replace the lamp maybe every year for about $90. Who cares? I can still get parts, it can still be repaired. I was chatting with the tech at the TV repair place I get my lamps from and he told me most of the newer TV's are pretty much either unrepairable, or the cost of repairing a TV more than a couple of years old is nearly as much as buying a new, larger TV. Next lamp replacement trip,

  • you fight my ability to repair your broken crap, I reserve the right to not buy your crappy stuff.

  • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @06:24PM (#56502937) Journal
    The Rich don't give a fuck whether something can be 'repaired' by 3rd parties or not, because they just pay whoever and not worry about the cost or the hassle.
    The Poor care because they can't afford to pay for things being repaired by only the dealership or only the manufacturer. They need to be able to get repairable things repaired wherever they can -- or repair them themselves if and when possible.
    The Rich unfortunately are also the ones who own or control these manufacturers who are fighting for protectionism of their repair monopolies.
    The Rich may very likely get their way, especially under the current 'administration', which doesn't seem to give a fuck about common, private citizens (lip service not withstanding) and cares more about making The Rich richer -- on the backs of The Poor, of course.

    Here's what I think will happen:
    If manufacturers get their way, then nothing changes, and expensive things stay expensive and inconvenient to get repaired -- if they are allowed to be repaired at all.
    If consumers get their way, then manufacturers may just go back to the old way of doing things: built-in obsolescence in the form of less durability. Maybe even low quality on purpose, or a built-in 'expiration date' that bricks things when they get old enough. Don't sit there and tell me it hasn't all happened before, either, because it has.

    Here's why:
    Companies that make high-quality, durable products, that stand the test of time seem to invariably end up going out of business due to no repeat business. They sell to everyone they can sell to, everyone is thrilled with their products, which never seem to wear out, therefore they never need to replace them.
    Meanwhile other shittier companies make half-assed products that may be flashy and popular, but that don't last forever. Eventually they have to be replaced.
    Then there's 'built-in obsolescence' in the form of 'standards' that keep changing (on purpose) to make what you have now obsolete.

    I suppose a middle ground might be manufacturers being forced to allow anyone to repair anything, but jacking up the price of 'proprietary' parts to compensate for their 'lost revenues' (Waaaah!), or 'licensing' of proprietary repair information, or who knows. Really, it's all capitalism gone bad.
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      It's not capitalism gone bad, that's just how capitalism works. Companies will do whatever they can to increase their profits, keeping customers happy and offering a decent product or service is not a goal of capitalism, its a side effect in the event of competition.

      • There's a distinct difference between a symbiote and a parasite. American capitalism has been more and more resembling the latter rather than the former, and it's not good for the country. There needs to be a middle ground.
        • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

          Capitalism does not encourage you to do anything which is good for the country, the goal of capitalism is personal gain.. Any benefit to the country is accidental, not a goal.

          The system is working as designed.

  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2018 @06:31PM (#56502975)
    When this topic is discussed, not just on forums like /., but in the media in general, it is often characterised as "the right to repair". It's *way* more than that...

    First, it's also the "right to upgrade"... It gives us the chance to buy a piece of generic technology and then adjust it to suit our own requirements. For example, to buy a generic laptop and then add extra memory and/or a large hard drive - if that's what we need. Or buy a second battery so that we can double our time away from a mains outlet for those of us who really do use a laptop when we're out and about...

    Second, it's all about the right to continue to use our devices for a reasonable amount of time. Imagine a scenario where you took your car in to a dealer for a mechanical fault and were told, "Sorry, this vehicle is three years old - we can't get the parts any more. But we can sell you a new car..." It's all too easy to dismiss this as scare-mongering, but when the only source of parts is a manufacturer, the moment they stop providing replacement parts for something you've bought, you're dead in the water. That will force you to make another purchase and keep their profits rolling in.

    And of course it fuels a tendency to "buy up" - to purchase a machine with more capacity or storage than we might want - at hugely inflated prices - because we know that if we run out of space there is no opportunity to upgrade.

    It's a shameful thing to have to say, but I think we're getting to [or have reached, or maybe even passed] the point where we need a "Code of Ethics" for manufacturers - for example in the consumer electronics sector it would be reasonable to expect that vendors will continue to stock parts for devices for 5 years after a particular model is withdrawn from sale. Motor vehicles might need a longer support window; other devices might survive with less.

    But the bottom line is that without this, we're not consumers, we're victims. Maybe the approaching mid-terms is time to get some support for legislation...
    • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

      In many countries, there are regulations which require auto manufacturers to make parts available for a minimum of 10 years from the date the last car was manufactured. There are also a large number of parts which are reused across models and even manufacturers.

      An electronics board is much the same really, all of the resistors and capacitors etc will be standard parts that are easily replaced - people are buying new capacitors to replace faulty ones on amiga motherboards made more than 20 years ago, but rep

  • .... your stories are about previously covered stories.
  • I'm convinced they have two marketing systems (may be more). The first sells the products with full warranty to people with more money than time to shop. The second sells "refurbs" through discount outlets with reduced warranty to cheapskates who don't want to pay full price.

    Either that, or they have huge quality control problems and the refurbs really are refurbs. I doubt they could stay in business if their quality was that bad.

    • Either that, or they have huge quality control problems and the refurbs really are refurbs.

      Ding! Ding! Ding!

      I doubt they could stay in business if their quality was that bad.

      Sure they can. They double-dip on sales by re-selling it refurbished. And the first customer paid extra for the warranty to allow it to fail. And the refurb-buyers are convinced to just buy another one when it fails rather than consider another option because they're still convinced that Dyson is the best.

  • by niks42 ( 768188 )
    As the founder of the Association of Home Equipment Modifiers ( AHEM ) I'd like to object to their use of a very similar acronym for a much darker purpose.
  • We have some countries like Sweden giving tax benefits to small companies for repairing appliances. We have a huge push to replace incandescent lighting with solid state lighting, with an attendant increase in lifetime as well as efficiency. (so much so, I have trouble finding a bulb that works for my lava lamp). We are now looking to reverse the global trend away from reusable containers to PET plastic bottles. Is this not a very badly timed initiative to help manufacturers sell the same products to the sa
    • by tsstahl ( 812393 )

      Are we all just going to ignore the admission of owning a lava lamp? ;)

    • "so much so, I have trouble finding a bulb that works for my lava lamp"

      40W controllable heater, no problem.

      Can't help you with the matter of your personal taste though.

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