Rage Against the Authorized Repair Center: Camera Repairman Protests CES

Photo: The Nikon D600, denuded.

An angry camera repairman has been making headlines recently: Kelly Chong was the only protester at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show. He stood outside the convention center in a suit and yellow safety vest, with a sign that accused Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Tanron of being “economic terrorists” for not supplying independent camera repair companies with parts.

Camera repair

Chong’s methods are brash, but he’s right. As we discussed last year, Nikon and many other camera repair companies have stopped selling repair parts to independent repair shops and to consumers. When Nikon made this announcement, many photographers spoke out: nearly 10,000 people have signed camera repair tech Matt Fuehrer’s petition. But Nikon has remained adamant. Nikon Customer Relations representative David Dentry told the Digital Photography Review that the decision is meant to protect cameras from unskilled technicians who might damage sensitive electronic equipment.

Doubtless, cameras are sensitive electronics. Many of our Nikon D70 guides require fine-tipped soldering and a steady hand. But we take exception to the idea that independent repair technicians are untrained and clumsy. Repair shops are staffed by professionals—many of them have decades of experience repairing cameras. Others were actually trained by manufacturers.

Cutting off independent shops from the parts supply stifles business and kills jobs for Kelly Chong and other repair folks. Local repair shops provide skilled, domestic jobs and keep broken technology out of landfills. Yet, since manufacturers make more money by sending all repairs through their own service centers, they have no incentive to begin selling parts to independent shops again.

Maybe we’ll need the force of law to effect this kind of change. Massachussetts passed an automobile Right to Repair law in November, securing the rights of independent car repair shops and motivated consumers to diagnostic information, repair tools, and replacement parts. What about a consumer electronics right to repair law?

Here is Slashdot’s interview with Kelly Chong.