Microsoft will allow more repair shops after activist protests

Microsoft agreed to let an outside group evaluate the environmental impact of its repair operations for its Surface devices and Xbox consoles. — Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp has agreed to let more repair shops fix its devices, caving to complaints from advocates and shareholders about the tight grip technology companies have over consumer repairs.

The software giant signed a commitment to allow repairs and share parts schematics for its Surface computers to those not on its list of authorised providers, according to documents viewed by Bloomberg News. Additionally, Microsoft agreed to let an outside group evaluate the environmental impact of its repair operations for its Surface devices and Xbox consoles. The company agreed to start these changes in 2022.

Microsoft is "committed to designing our products to deliver what customers need and want in a premium device and that includes increasing device repairability,” a company spokesperson said Thursday in a statement. "We believe customers are entitled to repair options that are safe and reliable. We currently provide customers with repair services that ensure the high quality of repairs, safeguard customers’ privacy and security, and protect customers from injury.”

Microsoft and fellow computer titans Apple Inc, HP Inc, and Alphabet Inc tightly control the people who can fix their hardware, or even access designs and parts. Critics accuse them of monopolising the repair market and wasting resources. These companies have cited security as the reason for the restrictions. Dozens of states have proposed recent laws to expand consumer repairs, but the tech companies – along with the video game and medical device industry – have successfully lobbied against them.

"Microsoft has come a long way, and they needed to,” Nathan Proctor, campaign director for US PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, said on Thursday.

As You Sow, a shareholder activism nonprofit group, brought a resolution with Microsoft about its repair restrictions. On Thursday, the group withdrew its resolution. "This is an encouraging step,” said Kelly McBee, waste program coordinator for the nonprofit. – Bloomberg

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