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The Samsung right-to-repair story just got worse

iFixit just broke up with Samsung over its shaky commitment to right to repair, but things may be worse than we thought. Samsung is apparently forcing independent repair shops to give up your personally identifying information — and report you for using aftermarket parts.

404 Media has now obtained a leaked copy of a contract between Samsung and an independent service provider, which states that for every repair, an independent repair shop must send Samsung your name, address, telephone number, your phone’s unique serial number and IMEI, your “customer complaint,” and all the details of your repair.

What’s more, it tells repair shops they must strip any aftermarket parts out of your phone — even though it’s likely perfectly legal for you to use third-party parts, and companies have gotten in trouble for suggesting that they would void your warranty.

404 Media says it’s “verified the authenticity of this contract,” and I’ve independently seen a copy myself.

Samsung did not respond to 404 Media’s request for comment; I’ve been in touch with Samsung for the past two hours, and it has not yet confirmed or denied the report.

It’s not just independent repair shops, by the way — Samsung might be adding you to a database every time you buy an official replacement part. iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens confirms his company shared some customer information with Samsung, too. If you bought a genuine Samsung part, iFixit made you agree to let Samsung have your email and a list of every genuine part you’ve purchased:

“I understand that iFixit will provide Samsung with my email and Samsung genuine parts purchase history to provide integrated customer care support.”
Image: iFixit

“We do not require this information for any other partnerships, and do not share customer information with any other OEM,” says Wiens.

Wiens says he can’t verify whether Samsung’s independent service provider contract is the current agreement that Samsung makes independent repair shops sign, as Samsung has never provided him with a copy, and the version I’ve seen has the year redacted. (A source tells me it’s from 2023.) It’s possible that Samsung has already replaced its language — or will replace it before July 1st, when California’s and Minnesota’s right-to-repair laws go into effect.

That’s because Minnesota’s law, in particular, probably wouldn’t let Samsung enforce such a contract — not only does it require manufacturers to provide parts under “fair and reasonable terms” but it also specifically bans “that a part be registered, paired with, or approved by the original equipment manufacturer.”

(It also bans “imposing a substantial obligation to use or restrict the use of the part” and “imposing any additional cost or burden that is not reasonably necessary.”)

Right-to-repair laws differ by state, though: California’s law, for example, is not so clear-cut about what “fair and reasonable” means. And not every repair shop knows its rights or is eager to fight Samsung, which controls 25 percent of the US smartphone market and is far and away the top Android provider in the United States.

Nathan Proctor, senior campaign director for right to repair at the US Public Interest Research Group, says he doubts that independent repair shops are actually stripping aftermarket parts out of people’s phones, no matter what Samsung asks. That’s a lot of work.

But he does believe that shops are giving up customer information — because Samsung will generally know when its genuine parts are being bought and installed and thus be able to track which repair shops aren’t complying.

It’s not clear (and 404 Media does not say) whether any indie shops make customers clearly acknowledge that Samsung will get their personal information.

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