US states consider ‘right to repair’ laws for electronics
Eighteen US states are considering ‘right to repair’ laws that would let owners of mobile and other electronic devices get their hardware fixed by third parties without voiding manufacturer warranties.
Such an act would require electronics makers to offer diagnostic and repair information, as well as equipment or service parts, to product owners and independent repair shops.
California Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman and others argue that consumers who can’t afford the high price of manufacturer-based repair services are increasingly forced to prematurely replace durable goods, such as smartphones or laptops.
Repairing and reusing electronics is not only a more efficient use of the scarce materials that go into manufacturing the products, she argued, “but it can also stimulate local economies instead of unsustainable overseas factories.”
Along with California, the list of states that have proposed similar legislation includes Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Apple, Samsung and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Apple has a reputation for making its smartphones and other electronics difficult to repair, and each new generation has become more so. For example, iFixit.com, a website that posts information about how to repair mobile and other devices, gave the iPhone 8 a six out of 10 rating for the ease with which it could be repaired by an owner. The iPhone 7 received a seven out of 10 reparability rating last year.
“Six out of 10; that sounds like a D to me,” said William Stofega, IDC’s program director for mobile phones and drones. Stofega pointed to efforts by vendors to intentionally make it difficult for users to fix their products.
For example, laptop manufacturers often use screws for which drivers are progressively difficult to find. Apple, for example, tends to change the screw types for its MacBook with each new generation. “They’re not just flathead or Phillips,” Stofega said.
One aspect playing into the push for right to repair laws is the fact that consumers now tend to hold onto smartphones and other devices longer than in the past – partly because they are more expensive.
Massachusetts was the first state to pass a right to repair law for cars in 2014, allowing drivers to take their vehicles to third party mechanics without voiding their manufacturer warranties.
Kit Walsh, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said right to repair legislation is critical to protect independent repair shops and a competitive market for repairs, which means better service and lower prices for consumers. “It also helps preserve the right of individual device owners to understand and fix their own property,” he said in a statement.
Apple has in the past lobbied against right to repair legislation, arguably because repairs are a valuable revenue stream.
“They [electronics] are complex, but if you go to iFixit, you can navigate around it,” Stofega said. “Just like car repairs, you can take it to the Toyota dealer or to a third party. There’s a lot of money in repairs.”
IDG News Service