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Bad news: your smartphone broke. Worse news: you can’t fix it yourself. As in, you’re not allowed – the manufacturers prevent it.

In places like the US, companies don’t make the parts and instructions for at-home repairs available. Instead, whether it’s your car, your gaming console or another gadget, many manufacturers force you to go back to them. Luckily, the “right to repair” movement is gaining momentum: invoked by US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, it argues that companies should make it easier for their customers to fix their own stuff.

Some high-profile examples have made headlines: last year, a California law banned farmers from repairing their own equipment – only John Deere technicians can do it, often at a high price and hours or days later. Apple, meanwhile, slowed down iPhones with older batteries, forcing users to buy new ones from official Apple stores. The companies have their reasons – John Deere cites copyright concerns, while Apple says iPhones are too complicated to fix at home – but people still feel cheated.

While sites like iFixit aim to put the power back in consumers’ hands, some argue faster legislative action is needed – especially as the piles of e-waste are only getting higher.

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Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.

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