Right to repair and what it means for servicing your new car?

As the name implies, ‘Right to Repair’ is about the customer has the right to repair and service their products where and by whom they want. Whether this is the ice cream machine at McDonald’s, your cell phone, tablet, or laptop, your new car or motorbike, or even crucial life-saving machinery at a hospital. Right To Repair states that the customer can decide where to service or repair their goods, even if still until warranty.

Previously, this has not been allowed or even possible, due to manufacturers insisting that only certain approved technicians could work on their products else the warranty is voided (e.g. an Apple Genius) or specialised repair equipment being required (e.g. a special screwdriver being required) or limited to no access to specifications and drawings being granted. Trevor Noah even featured a 10-minute segment on The Daily Show on the Right to Repair movement in the US[1].

Important to note, the repair environment is changing with legislation and guidelines around the world being put in place in places like the US, Europe and Australia. As a result, not only are changes taking place to how repairs can happen, but manufacturers are also looking to adapt how they operate. For example, Apple, often criticised as guarding the control and repair process of their devices, has recently launched a self-service repair programme that will allow customers to purchase replacement parts, making the customer more in control of the repair process[2].

Nonetheless, because of these changes, workshops and technicians that have not been part of or directly linked to the manufacturers are now starting to be able to undertake more repairs and get access to the necessary tools and information to enable them to do this more effectively and operate in this space.

In South Africa, while the concept of Right to Repair is still in its infancy, changes have already taken place. Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA), a not-for-profit company, has been formed to champion the aftermarket Right to Repair campaign so as to allow customers to choose where vehicles, including new purchases, are serviced and repaired, even if the vehicles are covered by warranties and motor plans[3]. As a result of their efforts, as well as consumer pressure, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition gazetted the Guidelines for Competition in the South African Automotive Aftermarket [4] at the end of 2020. The guidelines became effective on 1 July 2021 and as stated by Engineering News, “For the first time ever, owners of new cars will have the right to repair or service their vehicles at an independent provider of their choice[5].”

The issue of Right to Repair as a concept is being adopted more and more and while guidelines have been put in place for the aftermarket sector in South Africa, given more power to the customer, we can expect this practice to become evident going forward in other spaces. The key is that you, as the consumer and purchaser of products, can now, for example, decide where you wish to service your new vehicle going forward.

[1] The Right to Repair Movement – If You Don’t Know, Now You Know, The Daily Show, October 2021 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA7hZDfQDws

[2] Apple’s concession on the right to repair, The Financial Times, November 2021 (https://www.ft.com/content/235bf272-0a3c-4603-8f5c-46d5c76a0d3c

[3] Right to Repair South Africa (https://www.right2repair.org.za/home/

[4] Guidelines for Competition in the South African Automotive Aftermarket, Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/gcis_document/202101/44103gon46.pdf

[5] New right to repair rules: 5 things car owners need to know, Engineering News, February 2021 (https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/new-right-to-repair-rules-5-things-car-owners-need-to-know-2021-02-23

Sean Ellis

Businesses can thrive only when they have all the information needed to make smart, strategic decisions and I am proud to lead the Diagnostics team at BMA providing this critical insight and intelligence. I have been leading multidisciplinary teams through complex engineering and business analysis projects for over 12 years across Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia for clients including national, provincial/state, and local governments, international aid and development agencies, and large private-sector entities.