How Colorado’s Right to Repair bill protects choice, saves people money and protects the environment

Colorado adopted its 3rd Right to Repair bill, extending the right to fix everything from blenders to computers.

Hands fixing a computer
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UPDATE – the Colorado legislature passed the bill on Tuesday, April 30. On Tuesday, May 28, Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law. 

Colorado added consumer and business electronics to the list of items that Coloradans have the Right to Repair and can get the tools, parts, diagnostics and software access to fix. 

The state had already enshrined the Right to Repair around agricultural equipment and powered wheelchairs. Coloradans also enjoy some Right to Repair protections around vehicles thanks to multiple actions in Massachusetts

What is Right to Repair?

Everything breaks at some point. When our products fail, we deserve the right to choose what we do with them. The goal of Right to Repair reform is to empower consumers, letting us choose when, where, and how we fix our products. 

Right to Repair legislation ensures consumers and independent repair businesses have access to replacement parts, software, and documentation to safely make repairs to products, from powered-wheelchairs and tractors to smartphones and laptops to washing machines and IT equipment. 

This gives the owner of the product a choice in how repairs are made, and that can save us time and money while reducing the amount of waste that we produce.

Imagine a ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner that refuses to run because we dared to replace a filter bag ourselves instead of bringing it to an ‘authorized’ service center. Wayne Seltzer
Fixit Clinic organizer

Who supports Right to Repair in Colorado?

Consumer advocates

Consumer advocates because Right to Repair gives people the freedom to choose how to fix their stuff by giving us options. 

Those options also ensure competition, which can keep prices down and promote competition.

Local repair shops

Repair professionals across the state have spoken out in favor of Right to Repair. 

Current manufacturing practices withhold vital information, tools, and parts, which undercut independent repair professionals and can prevent them from performing even mundane fixes for their communities and their customers. As one repair shop owner Chad MacDonald put it– “the cards are stacked against us”.

Signatory shops include:

  1. FlashFix
  2. The Mac Man
  3. TechHub
  4. Casey Tech Services, LLC
  5. Genius Computer Repair
  6. Denver Phone Repairs
  7. Rapid Electronics
  8. The iDoctor
  9. Salida Phone Repair
  10. Paragon Geeks
  11. iDenverRepairs
  12. NerdTap LLC
  13. Fallen Apples Mac Repair
  14. Rave Repairs
  15. Boulder Tech Support
  16. Backwoods Engineering Colorado
  17. Device Dr
  18. iRepair of Gunnison

And the Pueblo School District 70, who relies on in-house repairs for the fleet of computers used at their schools.

Fixit Clinics

Boulder U-Fix-It has been a beloved institution in Colorado since the first pop-up clinic opened in 2014. According to them, they have hosted some 64 events, each with an average of 30 hobbyists and participants bringing in broken household appliances of all types, from computers to microwaves to amplifiers and hot water heaters.

Together, this community of ~1000 subscribers have fixed over 1900 items.

In testimony to the House on February 29th, Fixit Clinic organizer Wayne Seltzer said –  “We’re proud of our repair success rate, but are concerned about the growing number of products that are not designed to be repaired and defy our efforts to do so.” 

He asked the legislators and Coloradans alike to “imagine a ‘smart’ vacuum cleaner that refuses to run because we dared to replace a filter bag ourselves instead of bringing it to an ‘authorized’ service center”, which is a future that current anti-repair practices are trending towards.

Major technology companies like Google

Google’s Director of Consumer Hardware, Steven Nickel, testified in favor of Colorado’s bill.

He highlighted that Google has recently become a vocal supporter of the Right to Repair movement which speaks to the company’s founding principles. 

“Google’s mission to make the world’s information accessible and useful for everyone has shaped how we design our consumer electronics devices and also how we repair them. We design products in a manner that enables simple, safe, and reliable repairs wherever and by whomever they are done.” 

“There are many challenges we address in our pursuit of device longevity and repairability as a company. But these problems are solvable and our customers have celebrated these investments… It’s wonderful to see Colorado take a leadership position in this movement”

Innovative educational companies like SparkFun Electronics

Nathan Seidle, founder of SparkFun Electronics, spoke to how transparency around repair has helped his own business. 

“As an electrical engineer, it’s very hard for us to admit when we’ve done something wrong”, he explained at the February 29th House hearing. 

But when a small percentage of his customers began running into issues with his products, he made the choice to provide repair information online for them to fix their products themselves. 

“Those customers were very happy to hear from us, because they knew that our brand was stronger because of it. Those customers knew that they could come to us, purchase our product and repair it in rural and remote places where there is no authorized person to repair it.” 

Seidle has been able to build upon this experience as a core aspect of SparkFun’s brand, which allows for his customers to make safe and effective repairs for themselves.

Young entrepreneurs

12 year old Nuri Broestl spoke at the April 11th Senate Hearing in favor of the bill. Nuri is a 6th grader outside of Denver who has taken to repairing guitar amplifiers in his spare time. 

At the hearing, he spoke to the difficulties he faces when looking for repair manuals and schematics, saying; “Trying to repair something without fully understanding how it works can be frustrating and harder than it needs to be. I urge you to support this bill! It will help students like me, who are curious, passionate, and want to help their community by fixing and learning about our electronics.”

Cyber security experts

Paul Roberts, founder of securerepairs.org, an organization of more than 350 cyber security and information technology professionals spoke in favor of Right to Repair.

In securerepairs.org principles document they say – “True, verifiable security is the product of secure design and thorough testing and improvement, not secrecy. Systems that rely on secrecy rather than provable security are destined to fail.” 

In testimony, Roberts said: “The provisions of this bill are not going to put Coloradans at risk of cyber attack….You probably already know that because all of the information covered in this bill is not sensitive or protected. Manufacturers are already distributing this information to thousands or tens of thousands of repair professionals at their authorized providers. And that includes everything from staff working at Apple’s Genius Bar or The Geek Squad at Best Buy.”

“Those arguing against this law are not looking to secure this data, they’re looking to secure a profitable monopoly on repair and maintenance by withholding the tools, information and parts needed to diagnose problems and complete repairs.”

Businesses including the National Federation of Independent Business.

Tony Gagliardi spoke on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business Colorado, a group of more than 6000 businesses across the state of Colorado. More than 70% of those businesses ranked Right to Repair as an issue important to them because it deals in “consumer choice and freedom.” 

“Small repair shops are vital to the communities they serve. Small repair shops provide a more personalized service and at times a more affordable repair option. Supporting these small businesses contribute to the local economies and provides consumers with choice.”

“Having access to affordable local services leads to fewer devices being discarded. Often these devices are out of the warranty period.”

Recyclers and zero waste advocates

Ryan Call testified at the House hearing on February 29th. He represents Eco-Cycle in Boulder, one of the oldest and largest non-profit recycling organizations in the country. 

He said – “Coming from a recycler of electronics, we want to stress that repairing and refurbishing electronics is economically and environmentally preferable to recycling.”

He went on to say “We want to see folks repair and refurbish their electronics before sending them to us to be recycled.” 

As an example, Call stated that “of about 1000 presorted, high end, functional cell phones that are dropped off to be recycled last year, only about two were able to be fixed and reused. The rest were disassembled, their various components recycled primarily because the phones were locked and reuse was not possible. Similarly, we receive TVs that may only need a simple fix to be good as new. Many of these electronics do not need to be recycled yet and can easily be fixed as long as parts and schematics are available.”

Environmental groups

Henry Stiles spoke on behalf of Environment Colorado in support of Right to Repair. 

He said – “Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream globally. In 2019, 53 million tons of e-waste were generated world-wide, of which only 17% was recycled. That’s equal to 162 empire state buildings by weight.” 

This is not just wasteful, it can pose a major health risk. Stiles continued “E-waste is dangerous. It’s made up of 20% plastics, and is a source of lead, cadmium, mercury, and other toxic chemicals.”

“In Colorado, we produce 130,000 tons of e-waste per year, about 500 pounds per minute. Because our electronics take so much energy to mine, manufacture, and ship, if Coloradans used their phones for one year longer on average, it would have the same climate benefits of taking 11,000 cars off the road.” 

“The solution to this pending environmental crisis lies in extending the lifespan of our electronic devices through repair. Repair diverts usable devices from landfills and back into active use, preventing waste and conserving natural resources. Additionally, repair reduces the demand for new electronics, thereby mitigating the environmental impact of their production.”

 

The Repair Association - Repair.org

Repair.org sums it up well. It’s simple. You bought it, you should own it. Period.

You should have the right to use it, modify it, and repair it whenever, wherever, and however you want. 

Trying to repair something without fully understanding how it works can be frustrating and harder than it needs to be. I urge you to support this bill! It will help students like me, who are curious, passionate, and want to help their community by fixing and learning about our electronics." Nuri Broestl
12-yr old entrepreneur from Denver
pexels.com | Public Domain

Does Right to Repair undermine the safety or security of phones, laptops or other electronics?

No. 

Cyber Security expert Paul Roberts, founder of securerepair.org stated at the Colorado hearing that “attacks on connected devices like Internet of Things devices are not contingent on access to schematic diagrams or service manuals or diagnostic software. They attack remotely exploitable holes and vulnerabilities in the software that manufacturers themselves create and release to customers.” 

Simply put, this information is already available to many people, including many customers. Giving people access to replacement parts and repair schematics is not a threat to those devices or their users.

Roberts explained, “In many ways this bill might actually increase security by creating a diverse ecosystem of technicians and service providers who can maintain and support devices after manufacturers have stopped supporting their software.” 

The most hackable device is an unsupported device, and this Right to Repair legislation would allow us to continue supporting our devices even when the manufacturer has moved on.

How Right to Repair addresses electronic waste (e-waste)

Global electronic waste (e-waste) is a big problem growing 5 times faster than recycling. A new United Nations’ 2024 Global E-Waste Monitor report underscores the urgency for action.

The average American disposes of 47 pounds of electronic waste each year. We produce the second most e-waste of any country.

Electronic waste is the fastest growing part of the U.S. municipal waste stream. Americans throw out just shy of 8 million tons of electronic waste each year, more than nearly every other country in the world. 

Using the data from the UN report, we estimate Colorado generates 278 million pounds of electronic waste each year, equivalent in weight to nearly 2,000 RTD commuter rail cars. The Centennial State disposes of nearly 10 pounds of e-waste every second, which means our state is tossing an extra 10 million pounds of e-waste since the last release of the UN’s report, four years ago.

Right to Repair reduces e-waste by extending the life of the dozens of electronics we use on a daily basis. 

Has Colorado passed Right to Repair in Colorado?

In 2022, the legislature passed Right to Repair for people with powered wheelchairs. In 2023, they extended that protection to farmers for agricultural equipment

In 2024, the legislature passed Right to Repair for consumer electronics and the Governor signed it into law. 

Can Right to Repair save people money?

Yes. 

Without competition, companies are able to charge more. And that’s what we’re seeing. 

If a company can limit who can fix something, they can undermine the repair and used marketplaces. 

Our research shows that as of 2021, American households spend about $1,767 purchasing new electronic products per year.

On average, Americans have 24 pieces of electronics in their homes. 

As more things become digital, we are spending more – and replacing more. 

Repair, and holding onto these devices longer, could reduce household spending on electronics and appliances by 21.6 percent, which would save an average family approximately $382 per year. 

Is it safe to get something fixed by an independent repairer?

There’s no replacement for owner discretion and you should have the choice to take your electronics to someone you trust to fix it. 

That could be hopping onto websites like iFixit to try and do it yourself. Or take it to a local free Fixit clinic or a repair shop in your area. And you can always choose to use the original manufacturer. 

The Federal Trade Commission studied Right Repair for two years. The result? A unanimous report confirming that repair restrictions hurt consumers and small businesses, and that  assertions that repair access undermines safety, privacy, security or intellectual property are unfounded, with little or no evidence to support them. 

Security experts agree. Security is driven by software, and fixing broken hardware isn’t how attacks happen. Who has more incentive to manage the security of a device or equipment than the one who owns it? 

Not only that, but security experts argue that a system with more repair technicians and wider access to repair would increase security. In restricting access to the materials consumers need to fix their devices, companies prevent people from carrying out necessary maintenance such as applying security updates. 

Right to Repair gives people options which enables small businesses to offer different or better services. In this Wall Street Journal piece, a reporter highlighted how the manufacturer was unable to repair or fix her water damaged computers without replacing large parts of the device at a high cost

A local independent shop was able to do the repair safely by fixing the smaller components, which saved the reporter hundreds of dollars. 

 

"Those arguing against this law are not looking to secure this data, they're looking to secure a profitable monopoly on repair and maintenance by withholding the tools, information and parts needed to diagnose problems and complete repairs." Paul F. Roberts
Publisher & Editor in Chief of The Security Ledger and the founder of securepairs.org

What will be covered by the Colorado Right to Repair bill?

Everything from blenders and refrigerators to laptops and cell phones to appliances and IT equipment.

As more and more of our stuff comes with software, more and more companies can use that software to limit our ability to repair it. This can include lamps, clocks, watches and anything else that is “smart”, which is almost everything we buy as individual consumers or businesses or institutions like schools. 

Right to Repair allows you or independent repair shops access to the parts, tools, schematics, diagnostics and software needed to do the repair. So even if you choose not to try to fix it yourself, you’ll have options including taking it to the original manufacturer.

 

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Authors

Danny Katz

Executive Director, CoPIRG

Danny has been the director of CoPIRG for over a decade. Danny co-authored a groundbreaking report on the state’s transit, walking and biking needs and is a co-author of the annual “State of Recycling” report. He also helped write a 2016 Denver initiative to create a public matching campaign finance program and led the early effort to eliminate predatory payday loans in Colorado. Danny serves on the Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Efficiency and Accountability Committee, CDOT's Transit and Rail Advisory Committee, RTD's Reimagine Advisory Committee, the Denver Moves Everyone Think Tank, and the I-70 Collaborative Effort. Danny lobbies federal, state and local elected officials on transportation electrification, multimodal transportation, zero waste, consumer protection and public health issues. He appears frequently in local media outlets and is active in a number of coalitions. He resides in Denver with his family, where he enjoys biking and skiing, the neighborhood food scene and raising chickens.

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