Have you ever been challenged as a community fixer?


#1

Just wondering if anyone has been challenged about fixing while at a Repair Cafe/ Restart Party, or online.

Has anyone questioned the legality of your activity?

And how did you conduct the conversation?

I have had one conversation like this, it shook me a little as an organiser as I’m so used to members of the public being ‘up for’ what we do, and the ‘anti’ fixing stuff usually comes from faceless organisations!

Is this common for you guys?


#2

This sounds unpleasant Katie. On what grounds did they challenge the legality of the activity?

Insurance and liability are not insignificant questions, but they can be dealt with legally and appropriately. We have guidance on these, and excuse the disclaimer, but we always need to reinforce that our guidance does not constitute legal advice.


#3

You’re absolutely right about insurance and liability. I actually pointed the person towards the Restarters guidance to demonstrate the way repair events work- at that point in the conversation I did not feel I needed to provide our insurance details; and the Restarters guidance is a really nice overview to show what is needed to run an event like this. (for this reason, I am so thankful for the Restarters website and resources- I felt supported and reassured to know other people are doing the same, safe, sensible activities as us).

The person was actually asking if our repairs meet legal requirements and are carried out with ‘correct materials’. I was unsure if they were referring to using official parts or carrying out a generally safe repair by a competent person.

Perhaps I am too protective of our events- any question over what we’re doing and I feel like a mother hen! LOL!


#4

Don’t worry about raising this, it is highly relevant, and in fact included on our list of media “gotchas” - people love a good debate (or argument).

Unclear whether this person had a high degree of technical knowledge but didn’t get specific with you, or whether they were simply naysaying with little grounds to do so.

If they were referring to repair documentation, we simply do not have access to it because manufacturers go to great lengths to restrict access, and we use mostly what we can get from other fixers on the internet.

If they were referring to physical materials, we would never advise anybody to use components or materials that are not safe. In fact, often times we help people understand they have been using the wrong power supply, or they have used the wrong fuse. So in fact we end up righting a wrong.

In terms of spare parts, this is a highly complex area. To simplify, we generally advise people on their options, and warn against anything that appears to be too cheap or “too good to be true”. In fact we usually err on the side of conservatism.

As for “competence” and the law, there is nothing in UK law that prevents talented amateurs and DIYers from helping others fix their electronics and appliances for free. That said, we are actively creating and maintaining our own norms for addressing risk and safety in community repair, as we implement our own safety procedures and reinforce an atmosphere of vigilance around safety issues.

Hope this helps? Thanks for raising this, I’m sure you are not alone in this!


#5

Thanks so much Janet for taking the time to ‘listen’ and reply. It’s reassuring you mention the same things that we go through at our events and the same sensibilities as our electrical fixers.


#6

I’ve been asked a few times, and I highlight that they don’t need to use our shared skills if they have concerns, and we don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable. They are welcome to go elsewhere or simply not repair it.


#7

Glad I’ve not been the only one! Good answer too :slight_smile:


#8

If they were using vague phrases like “legal requirements” & “correct materials” then it sounds like they were being gratuitously officious since there are no “legal requirements” for repairs in general.
If they’d asked where you’re sourcing your spare parts from or whether your solder is lead-free, I’d think that maybe they knew what they were talking about.

Also, assuming you stick to Restart guidelines, it’s not you who is doing the repair, it’s them (with your help), so it’s partly up to them what “materials” and repair methods they use, albeit with your recommendations.


#9

Thanks Dave. Yes it did feel a little odd with the vague wording. I’m trying to look at it objectively but it’s hard not to feel like they were being meddlesome.

Luckily it was not at an event so I had time to compose a calm reply, and, as I said above, sent them a link to the Restarters guidelines to give them an idea of how we try to operate.


#10

I don’t see anything wrong with a polite enquiry, because people may have some concerns or may just be interested in the background to repair events. But anything less than courteous is just unnecessary.


#11

You’re absolutely right- trying my best not to take it personally!!