It’s common-sense: If something you own breaks, you should be able to fix it. But manufacturers don’t see it that way. Instead, they use a set of tactics to block independent repair because they want consumers to have to come to them to do repairs. Sometimes manufacturers charge an arm and leg, and other times, they try to push customers into upgrades.
Increasingly, people are signaling that they’ve finally had enough. This consumer frustration — and a lot of hard work by committed tinkerers, organizers, technicians and others across the country — has led the rapid rise of the Right to Repair campaign.
Right to Repair made considerable progress in 2019, and just a little over a month into 2020, we’re seeing continued momentum.
Massachusetts and Hawaii Committees move forward with legislation
Right to Repair legislation continues to make its way through state governments across the country. In Hawaii, members of the Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee voted unanimously to advance a repair bill. U.S. PIRG and Repair.org played leading roles in pushing the legislation, helping to recruit a coalition of Hawaii residents in support. The bill now heads to the House Judiciary Committee, and the Senate is also considering companion legislation.
Meanwhile, Mass.’ Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure approved a Right to Repair bill, clearing a huge hurdle for our efforts. The bill moves on to the full Senate, where it has broad, bipartisan support.
The American Farm Bureau endorses new Right to Repair policy
Farmers have long struggled with unfixable tractors. On Jan. 21, the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents almost 6 million member families across the United States, voted decisively to endorse their members’ ability to fix their equipment when it breaks. In doing so, they set clear guidelines on what kind of policy they think will solve the problem. As I told reporters: “The thing that’s really important about this policy is that they defined what the goal is, and farmers are clear about what it is they think right to repair means: the same tools the dealer has.”
Right to Repair legislation already active in 17 states this year
Right to Repair was carried over from 2019 sessions in a number of states, including Massachusetts (House and Senate), Minnesota, Vermont (which added a companion bill in the House), New York (House and Senate), Washington (which held a hearing on the Senate side), Georgia, and Hawaii (which added a companion bill on the House side). New Hampshire and California bills were carried over, but are no longer active.
New bills have been filed in a few additional states: Oklahoma, Alabama, Maine (which has already held a hearing and two work sessions), Missouri, Colorado, Maryland (House and Senate), Idaho and New Jersey.
Going forward, more states will join in with legislation of their own.
CompTIA, major Right to Repair opponent, drops their opposition
Their lobbying against Right to Repair has caused considerable backlash in recent weeks, after being featured in YouTube videos by New York repair shop owner Louis Rossmann. Nearly 4,000 people signed a petition calling for an end to the use of CompTIA certifications until they stopped their lobbying, which led to CompTIA leadership agreeing to back off.
International efforts expand in Europe and Australia
The Right to Repair Europe coalition, which coordinates with it’s U.S. counterparts, has already won new rules for large appliances. Their next effort kicked off this month, focused on smartphones.
In Australia this week, a new conference brought together experts to discuss the legal frameworks and possible ways Australia and New Zealand can pursue Right to Repair reforms. Right to Repair efforts there are expanding and getting more public attention.
All that, and we’re only 5 weeks in.
Perhaps it’s time for manufacturers to look around at all the support for Right to Repair and realize the writing is on the wall. And that writing says: just let us fix our stuff.
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.