Five States are Considering Bills to Legalize the ‘Right to Repair’ Electronics

Connector Winter 2017

Lawmakers in five states have introduced legislation that would enshrine the “Right to Repair” electronics, meaning manufacturers will have to sell replacement parts to independent repair shops and consumers and will also have to make their diagnostic and service manuals public.

The bills are squarely aimed at the “authorized repair” model that creates aftermarket monopolies dominated by the manufacturers themselves. For example, Apple has never authorized an independent company to repair iPhones, even though hundreds of companies do so every day (its authorized repair program is only for Mac computers).

Many of these independent repair shops exist in limbo: Acquiring parts usually means going on the Chinese grey market or salvaging parts from recycled devices. In the past, the Department of Homeland Security has raided independent repair shops who have unknowingly sold counterfeit parts.

Bills have been introduced in Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Kansas. Additionally, a farm equipment repair bill has been introduced in Wyoming that closely mirrors the legislation in the other states but would at least nominally be targeted only at tractors and other farm equipment.

These bills wouldn’t just affect independent repair companies; repair parts and diagnostic manuals would also be made available to consumers, making it much easier to repair your own things. The legislation is being pushed by Repair.org, a small lobbying group made up entirely of independent repair companies.

The legislation is modeled on the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, a law passed in Massachusetts in 2012. That law effectively became national legislation, because auto manufacturers feared having to deal with the intricacies of 50 different state laws on the issue. The hope is that at least one electronics right to repair law will pass this year, similarly opening the floodgates for consumers and repair companies around the country.

Source: Motherboard / Vice Media