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The Right-To-Repair Expands

In 2012, the people of Massachusetts stood up for their Right to Repair. By an overwhelming majority, state voters passed a law that required automakers to give owners the same service information they give to their dealers.

by Kyle Wiens, Co-Founder and CEO, iFixit

KyleWiensSoon after, the law became the basis of a national policy.

A single state put Americans back in the driver’s seat when it comes to the repair of their cars. And on that day, Massachusetts started a movement that continues a half-decade later. Because Americans are now fighting for the Right to Repair not just their cars—but everything they own.

This year, 11 states introduced Right to Repair legislation for digital equipment—things like computers, smartphones, smart appliances, and even farm equipment. Because everything breaks, especially the high-tech devices that increasingly govern our lives. And yet, as computerized stuff becomes ubiquitous, it’s also gotten harder to fix. Many companies won’t tell consumers how to repair products when they break. And some companies refuse to sell replacement parts to anyone but their own technicians. So when an expensive gadget breaks, owners have few options but to send it back to the manufacturer for an expensive repair. Service monopolies are good for manufacturers, but they aren’t good for anyone else. Not for consumers. And not for the network of small businesses that are the backbone of America. Don’t believe me? Ask your local camera repair shop—if you can find one.

In 2012, significant camera brands stopped selling replacement parts to independent camera repair shops. In one fell swoop, they eliminated competition for the repair of their products. Thousands of independent camera repair shops were driven out of business. Now, instead of taking your camera to a shop you trust—you have to send it to an official repair center for service. And you’ve gotta pay whatever price they want for the repair.

It’s not just cameras. Shutting down aftermarket repair options is standard practice in the high-tech industry and some transportation sectors

If these tactics sound familiar—it’s because automakers used the same ones over the years to put independent mechanics out of business. Car owners and regulators fought back to ensure that Americans can fix their cars where they want: with the dealer, at a local garage, or in their own driveway. It’s time to do the same for everything else. Digital Right to Repair laws are simple. They require manufacturers to release service instructions to the public. And they require manufacturers to sell diagnostic tools and spare parts to owners, recyclers, and independent repair shops. Because you bought it. You own it. And you should get to decide how to fix it. Unfortunately, most manufacturers disagree. And they’ve been paying lobbyists all over the nation lots of money to kill the bills behind closed doors.

Last year, three states introduced Digital Right to Repair efforts. This year, that number nearly quadrupled. I’m confident that Digital Right to Repair will eventually become law—if not this year, then soon. Because it’s common sense legislation: Manufacturers shouldn’t be able to stop you from fixing something you own. Right to Repair started with cars—but it doesn’t end there. All it takes is one state to pass legislation that would ensure the Right to Repair for millions of Americans.

Don’t you want that one state to be yours? Get involved at www.repair.org/stand-up. You can also see ISRI’s right to reuse policy that supports this legislation.

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