Release: Rural repair shops, farmers, advocates call for action during Right to Repair hearing

Right to repair

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WASHINGTON — PIRG consumer advocates delivered on Wednesday a letter, signed by 105 rural repair shops, to a U.S. House subcommittee that urged Congress to remove manufacturer-imposed barriers for independent repair shops. The letter was delivered to the Subcommittee on Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Business Development, part of the Small Business Committee, as it held a hearing to discuss Right to Repair and the impacts of repair restrictions on small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The hearing, “Right to Repair and What it Means for Entrepreneurs,” featured testimony from Repair.org Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne, a repair shop owner from rural New Hampshire and a farmer from Maine.

“When you live hundreds of miles from the nearest ‘authorized’ repair shop, you still need your devices fixed,” said PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “Restricting repair to a few select locations is frustrating when you live in a big city, but it’s cruel for people who live in rural areas.”

Proctor submitted written testimony to the subcommittee, which highlighted PIRG research into Right to Repair, including:

  • In early 2020, U.S. PIRG Education Fund surveyed 302 independent phone technicians about what repairs they offer and what the barriers to their business were. When asked if they support Right to Repair reforms, 92% of surveyed shops answered “Yes,” and only 2% said these reforms were not needed.
  • survey released in February from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and National Farmers Union showed farmers are also eager to get better repair access: Of 74 farmers across 14 states surveyed, 95% support Right to Repair.
  • PIRG research found that repair can save the average household about $330 per year and a total $40 billion across the country.

Along with the International Association of Medical Equipment Remarketers and Servicers (IAMERS), PIRG also delivered a letter that highlighted the negative impact of repair restriction on rural hospitals.

“When manufacturers refuse to let independent technicians or hospital biomedical staff access necessary repair materials, it makes it harder for rural hospitals to keep equipment running and
deliver the care patients require,” said Kevin O’Reilly, PIRG Right to Repair Campaign Director and coauthor of the letter. “With hundreds of rural hospitals at risk of closing, Right to Repair could help ensure that rural hospitals can continue to provide vital services to our communities.”

As Right to Repair gains momentum around the country — both New York and Colorado passed bills in their states this year — lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking notice. In addition to support from the Biden administration, and recent enforcement action from the Federal Trade Commission, Congress is now increasingly investigating the impact of repair restrictions.

“Whether it’s to cut electronic waste, protect small businesses or save consumers money, Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Proctor. “People should be allowed to fix their stuff. This issue isn’t going away — and we’re glad Congress is taking a closer look.”

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