The “Right to Repair” can be explained as a “freedom”, wherein a consumer has the freedom to repair their own equipment or to hire an independent service provider rather than being forced to return to the manufacturer’s authorized service center. The aim of this movement is to get manufacturers and large conglomerates to create spare parts, tools to repair devices and information on device schematics available to customers and local repair shops so as to increase longevity of the products and preventing them from ending up in garbage heap, thereby generating less e-waste. It also aims to create laws that prevent OEMs from manufacturing products through “planned obsolescence”.
Although there are no laws that govern the right to repair in India but recently the government of India has proposed to introduce a Right to Repair law which it aims to make individuals self-sufficient and contribute to a sustainable environment. A committee has been established by the consumer affairs department of India to create a complete framework. The committee is led by Nidhi Khare, additional secretary for consumer affairs and its other members are representatives from business and industry, such as the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and other various environmental activists and consumer organizations. The proposed framework will enable support for “Third party and self-repairing of devices”. Additionally, this framework also aims to generate employment under the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Currently, to address the new set of challenges in the digital age faced by consumers, the new Consumer Protection Act, 2019 was introduced which expressly recognizes the ‘right to choose’. Section 2 of the said act implies that a customer must have access to goods and services at competitive prices so as to determine fair prices while maintaining the quality of the same. In the case of Shri Shamsher Kataria vs Honda Siel Cars Limited & Ors (2014), fourteen automobile companies were held liable for being involved in anti-competitive practices by taking intellectual property rights as defence. The manufacturers denied access of spare parts to independent repairers of automobiles and allowed purchase/sale of the same only through their authorized sellers. The CCI upheld the judgement of COMPAT, which mentioned that “IP rights cannot work as a shield for violating Indian competition law”.
By Amrit Anupam, B.A. LLB (IPR Hons), KIIT School of Law
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