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Microsoft backs right to repair following investor revolt

The tech giant will investigate the effects of giving customers access to parts and repair documentation

Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet on a desk in front of a forest patterned wall

Microsoft has agreed to launch an investigation into the benefits of the right to repair following pressure from investors.

The tech giant and investor advocacy nonprofit As You Sow reached an agreement over a shareholder resolution filed in June, which urged Microsoft to analyse the environmental and social benefits of making device repair easier.

In exchange for As You Sow’s withdrawal of the resolution, Microsoft has agreed to hire an independent consultant to study the benefits of increasing consumer access to parts and repair documentation, as well as its effect on carbon emissions and waste, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles, according to Grist.

Although the study will not be made public, given concerns surrounding proprietary information, the tech giant is required to post a summary of its findings by May 2022. By the end of 2022, after taking the findings into consideration, Microsoft has agreed to make new parts and documentation available beyond its authorised repair network.

“This is an encouraging step by Microsoft to respond to the upswell of federal and state activity in the right to repair movement,” said Kelly McBee, waste programme coordinator at As You Sow. “Excitingly, this agreement will begin to allow consumers to repair their Microsoft devices outside the limited network of authorised repair shops.”

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Microsoft believes its customers are entitled to repair options that are safe and reliable, a spokesperson from the company told Grist. It said it currently provides customers with repair services that ensure a high quality of repairs, safeguard customers’ privacy and security, and protect customers from injury.

“As You Sow asked us to investigate the connections between our sustainability commitments and device repairability,” the spokesperson added. “It was a productive discussion, and we have agreed to undertake that important study, the results of which will be used to guide our product design and plans for expanding device repair options for our customers.”

In July, US president Joe Biden signed an executive order aiming to promote competition in the US economy, with a big focus on big tech companies. Through the initiative, Biden wants to make it easier and cheaper to repair items consumers own by limiting manufacturers from barring self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products, known as the right to repair.

The order encourages the FTC to issue rules against any anti-competitive restrictions on carrying out DIY repairs or using independent repair shops.

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