Uninformed Legislators Shoot Down Right To Repair Legislation In Colorado
from the try,-try-again dept
As we’ve noted a few times, 2021 is seeing record interest in new right to repair laws. Driven by grass roots activism, such laws are being pushed in more than fourteen states. Most variations not only protect your right to repair hardware you own, they open the door to more independent repair shops, and fewer corporate giants attempting to monopolize repair (Apple, John Deere, Microsoft, Sony, many more).
Unsurprisingly, said companies are engaged in a lot of theatrics to undermine such efforts, including false claims that such laws will create a boom in sexual predators, raise prices, or turn otherwise peaceful American towns and cities into diabolical meccas for hackers. This coordinated assault on such laws has been effective in states like Colorado, where the state legislature recently shot down one such legislative effort, even after hearing testimony about how repair restrictions are harming health care providers during COVID by hamstringing access to essential repair technology and documentation or replacement parts:
“The Colorado House Business Affairs & Labor committee met to consider the law on March 25. Twelve legislators voted to indefinitely postpone considering the bill. Only one voted for it. ?I still have a lot of questions. I still have a lot of concerns,? Rep. Monica Duran (D) said at the end of the committee hearing. She voted no on the bill.”
But these befuddled lawmakers apparently couldn’t be bothered to actually ask any questions during testimony showcasing the very real harm repair monopolies are causing across countless sectors. And like many issues in tech, this isn’t really a partisan debate; in fact the right to repair movement truly took off when John Deere tractor owners began to get angry about the company’s draconian DRM and repair policies. Policies that often force rural farm owners to pay thousands of extra dollars and travel sometimes hundreds of additional miles just to even diagnose problems with their tractors.
Even after folks clearly testified about the scope of the harm repair monopolies cause to agriculture, health care, and other sectors, and after folks clearly illustrated the environmental impact of a wasteful culture routinely incentivized to avoid repair and buy new, the lawmakers made oodles of comments suggesting they’d bought into corporate narratives on the subject:
“In their own comments, the legislators repeated lines Apple and other companies often use to defend their repair monopolies. Shannon Bird (D), for example, said that manufacturers have the right to dictate how a customer uses its product. She stressed that Apple can sell licenses to whatever it wants. ?Apple Music is different than purchasing a CD,? she said. “I have a hard time believing that we would call it Apple having a monopoly on its own product.?
Many of the legislators on the committee conflated the repair market with the phone market itself. Others said that a right-to-repair bill would increase the cost of phones for everyone.
That’s false and… embarrassing. Fortunately for right to repair activists, the harder companies fight against these efforts, the more support they’re seeing from the public. And there’s certainly going to be no shortage of new evidence of harms when it comes to draconian DRM, ham-fisted restrictions on repair tools and technology, environmental waste, and soaring consumer repair costs. So while Colorado legislators were too uninformed this go-round, it’s a subject that’s not going away anytime soon. Perhaps next time lawmakers can spend more than thirty seconds trying to understand the subject.