OTTAWA — Canadians are massively in favour of the “right to repair” their gadgets, an idea that is growing in popularity and has been widely debated in the United States but is virtually unknown north of the border, according to a poll commissioned by an internet advocacy group.The poll by Innovation Research Group, commissioned by OpenMedia, found that three-quarters of Canadians would support right-to-repair legislation, even though no proposed laws currently exist.“It’s is quite surprising that none of the federal parties in Canada is really pushing for it. It’s something we’re seeing a lot of uptake on in the United States,” Rodrigo Samayoa, a digital campaigner for OpenMedia.Right to repair legislation is usually intended to compel companies to release schematics and diagnostic information to consumers and authorized repair shops, giving consumers more choice when it comes to getting repairs done. Proponents think the legislation will bring down the price of repairs and the devices themselves. The poll was also commissioned by iFixit, a website that helps users repair their devices by providing instructions and selling parts.Only a quarter of respondents knew about the right to repair movement and the rest had to be brought up to speed before answering questions. The poll didn’t find much difference among respondents of different political affiliation, with 79 per cent of Liberals supporting the idea and 67 per cent of Conservatives supporting it.The poll was conducted through Innovative Research Group’s monthly online omnibus survey from 1,691 Canadian respondents. Although it’s a representative sample, a margin of error can not be calculated because it was not a random probability-based sample.
Apple Inc. iPhone smartphones sit on display during the opening of the company’s new Carnegie Library store at Mount Vernon Square in Washington, D.C., U.S on Saturday, May 11, 2019.
A private member’s bill in Ontario on the right to repair, introduced by Liberal MPP Michael Coteau, was defeated in May but there’s been little else in terms of legislation, especially on the federal scene. Samayoa chalked that up to the powerful lobbying efforts of tech companies that would prefer to have a monopoly on repairs to the devices they sell.Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two candidates in the Democratic presidential primary in the United States, have proposed right-to-repair legislation, which mostly focused on tractors and other agricultural equipment. About 20 states have considered some kind of right to repair legislation and the U.S. copyright office recently made some big changes that allowed users to “jailbreak” their devices and make changes or repairs.Samayoa said the issue also disproportionately affects rural people and anyone who doesn’t live in a major population centre. For example, if local repair shops can’t fix an iPhone, then the owner will have to either bring it into a distant Apple Store or mail it to the company for a fix — or simply purchase a new phone, which Samayoa says more people are reluctantly doing.“There is no better way of increasing your cell phone bill than dropping your phone,” he said.The issue affects rural residents in other ways. Although there are rough, non-binding right-to-repair guidelines in Canada and the U.S. for cars, they don’t apply to tractors. In the United States, Sanders promised to give “every farmer in America full rights over the machinery they buy,” including the ability to fix it or take it to a local repair shop.Due to the guidelines on cars, it creates a strange situation where a “farmer can take their Ford F-150 to a local mechanic but they can’t take their tractor to a local mechanic,” said Samayoa.• Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: stuartxthomson