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Ugo Vallauri


Co-director, The Restart Project

VISIONARY No. 4

When asked for his motivation to fight for people’s right to repair their old devices instead of buying new gear, Ugo Vallauri refers to his time working in Kenya for a charity that was reusing desktops that were given away. “I’ve been exposed to reuse-and-repair cultures from around the world; that really inspired me to think about how we had lost such an approach in Europe and North America.” Vallauri, co-director of U.K.-based The Restart Project and one of the coordinators of the Right to Repair campaign, now has a shot at bringing that approach back to Europe.

Later this year, the EU is scheduled to introduce a right-to-repair initiative, strengthening the rights of consumers to extend their devices’ lifespans. For years now, device manufacturers have impeded consumers from doing so, by not giving access to the inner workings of the devices or spare parts that can replace defunct ones. The campaign that Vallauri is co-leading has brought together approximately 100 organizations in 20 countries to try to change that, weigh in on the initiative and “make repair the norm.”

Ahead of the EU’s initiative, smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have changed their tune and started rolling out repair programs. But Vallauri is wary of their intentions, and the Right to Repair campaign doesn’t have many smartphone manufacturers among its membership, with Fairphone a notable exception. “We are extremely cautious in kind of feeding into the enthusiasm for such announcements — often because they tend to be announcements rather than actual initiative[s].” The question of the fall will be how far the EU can bring smartphone manufacturers — to announcements, or to actual initiatives?

What to watch out for this year: The EU’s right-to-repair initiative will land in the second half of this year.

What’s their superpower: Having the EU on his campaign’s side, with the bloc’s initiative putting manufacturers on the defensive.

Influence score: 18/30

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