Minnesota passes broadest Right to Repair measure to date

Another state win on Right to Repair: What's included and what's next in the struggle to let people fix their stuff

Thanks to a landmark win in the state Legislature, Minnesotans are going to have a much easier time fixing their stuff — and just might help lead the nation into a more fixable future. 

On May 17, lawmakers in the Minnesota state House concurred with the Minnesota state Senate on a consumer-friendly legislative package and sent the bill to Gov. Tim Walz. The governor signed the bill on Wednesday, May 24. Our Digital Right to Repair bill (originally filed as HF 1337 and SF 1598) ended up as part of this omnibus legislation. It is the most comprehensive Right to Repair package yet passed, and fills in many of the loopholes that watered down the New York Right to Repair legislation. 

What the legislation covers 

When originally filed, the Minnesota legislation covered all electronic products except for cars and medical devices. As the bill moved forward, farm and construction equipment was also exempted, as were video game consoles and home energy storage systems. 

The bill still covers everything else. For the first time, the Right to Repair extends to appliances, enterprise computing and commercial equipment (such as HVAC systems). In addition, the bill covers many of the products already included in New York’s first-in-the-nation consumer electronics Right to Repair bill. 

While the New York legislation only covered products manufactured for the first time after July 1, 2023, the Minnesota bill is retroactive to July 1, 2021. The start date is not as far back as we wanted, but it’s a clear step forward.

“Manufacturers are turning the corner from fighting Right to Repair, and are starting to set up their own repair solutions,” noted iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. “However, they have some work ahead of them to enable repair of older equipment.” 

The Minnesota bill specifies that manufacturers do not have to sell parts or tools if those are no longer available. “We really want the service manuals for older products,” explained Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org. “When quality technicians have the documentation, they can typically keep fixing the product for a very long time, even without manufacturer help.” 

Tricky language around ‘cybersecurity’ 

While the Minnesota legislation is far stronger than the New York bill, late changes could make it more complicated to enforce. It remains to be seen whether manufacturers will try to dodge providing necessary repair equipment — though PIRG and other advocates feel they will eventually have to cough it up. 

Specifically, the bill exempts “information technology equipment that is intended for use in critical infrastructure as defined in United States Code, title 42, section 5195c.” That definition says critical infrastructure means “systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.”

Additionally, the bill exempts any parts, tools or information that “could reasonably be used to compromise cybersecurity or cybersecurity equipment.” 

This exemption should only cover a tiny portion of repairs on the most highly protected security equipment. It should not apply to the vast majority of server or consumer equipment, where any suggestion there is potential or capability to destabilize national security from a repair is quite outlandish. There might well be special tools, controlled by the NSA for example, which allow for access to systems in a way that would be devastating if they were provided on a widespread scale. Clearly, repair technicians don’t need those kinds of materials to update firmware or replace broken components for standard repair and refurbishment.   

The simple use of technology in critical infrastructure does not include it in this exemption. Smartphones are used in critical infrastructure, but it would be absurd (and clearly not the intent of the authors) to exclude them from coverage under this law.

This added language might make it more cumbersome to enforce Right to Repair, but won’t prevent repairers from getting what they need to fix equipment. 

Looking forward as Right to Repair wins mount 

Less than a month after Colorado passed the first Right to Repair bill to facilitate the repair of farm equipment, we have now won a bill that covers nearly all consumer electronics and business equipment. We are especially relieved to have home appliances covered for the first time. 

It seems likely that most companies will institute a plan to comply with Right to Repair mandates, which could benefit all customers, not just those in states that have already passed repair-friendly laws. But that doesn’t mean we are done expanding repair access. 

Some important device types, including video game consoles and medical equipment, have not been addressed in any state. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that restrictions to fixing medical equipment were a threat  to public health. For example, in May and June of 2020, more than half of the 222 biomedical professionals we surveyed reported that because of repair restrictions, they could not service their ventilators if they broke. Some 29% had ventilators in their possession that they could not use because the manufacturers would not let them access parts and information needed to restore them. 

Our big win in Minnesota sets a new floor for action on Right to Repair, but we still have more to do to ensure that people everywhere can fix their stuff. Manufacturers might try to dodge laws if they apply in only one state, and may try to take advantage of the lack of clear language around cybersecurity.

When it comes to devices specifically exempted from existing laws, we need a solution to ensure that repairers can get what they need. Until these changes happen, we’ll continue pushing ahead everywhere we can.


Nathan Proctor

Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, PIRG

Nathan leads U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers’ ability to fix their own electronics. Nathan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.

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