Google changes repair policy after criticism of third-party parts ban

Pixel devices.


Google has changed its repair policy in response to criticism from repair advocate Louis Rossmann. Rossmann dug through the Google Store’s “Service & Repair Program Terms & Conditions” for its first-party mail-in repair service and found the same style of onerous bans on third-party parts that Samsung was recently caught using. Section D, article 4 of the terms include the rather incredible line “Unauthorized Parts: You will not send in a Device containing non-Google-authorized parts – if You do, Your Device will not be returned to you.” That’s right, according to the terms, Google would keep a device sent in for repair, and you wouldn’t get it back.

We asked Google for a comment on Rossmann’s video, and a spokesperson says the terms will be updated:

If a customer sends their Pixel to Google for repair, we would not keep it regardless of whether it has non-OEM parts or not. In certain situations, we won’t be able to complete a repair if there are safety concerns. In that case, we will either send it back to the customer or work with them to determine next steps. Customers are also free to seek the repair options that work best for them. We are updating our Terms and Conditions to clarify this.

That sounds a lot more reasonable.

Exactly how much these big tech companies care about repair is still a source of skepticism from the repair community. The Google Store’s promotional page on sustainability makes a good argument for device repair, saying, “From product design to manufacturing and across our supply chains, we are working to address our environmental and social impact at every step.” It mentions device repair as part of that mission, saying, “When you opt to fix your phone instead of replace it, you help keep e-waste out of the landfill.”

Rossmann argues that companies don’t really want you to repair devices, since that hurts the bottom line and that they primarily want to get out ahead of right-to-repair legislation. Rossmann points out two ways companies sabotage repair. The first is with invasive terms like Samsung’s and (recently) Google’s, which Rossmann says are designed to render the repair program ineffective. “You have to understand that the way these programs have been put together, and the way they work, they’re not intended to be used,” Rossmann says. “These programs are intended for you to purchase a new one. They’re designed to be so bad that nobody would ever use them.”

Rossmann also points out that a lot of the official parts for older devices cost more than an entire second-hand device, so the pricing often doesn’t make sense for consumers. A Pixel 6 Pro display costs $273 from the official Google/iFixit store, while an entire working used Pixel 6 Pro from eBay, in “very good” condition, can be had for less than that. First-party parts don’t just face an availability problem; sometimes, the pricing these companies go with doesn’t make sense for consumers.

iFixit runs first-party parts stores for at-home repair of devices and recently ended its relationship with Samsung. iFixit said Samsung only gives lip service to repair, but the actual policies stifle the repair industry. Google is at least trying to fix the areas where people point out the terrible terms of its repair program, though it would be nice if the parts store could offer parts at a reasonable price.

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