California Becomes 20th State To Push 'Right to Repair' Legislation

from the monopolized-repair dept

A few years back, frustration at John Deere's draconian tractor DRM culminated in a grassroots tech movement. The company's crackdown on "unauthorized repairs" turned countless ordinary citizens into technology policy activists, after DRM and the company's EULA prohibited the lion-share of repair or modification of tractors customers thought they owned. These restrictions only worked to drive up costs for owners, who faced either paying significantly more money for "authorized" repair, or toying around with pirated firmware just to ensure the products they owned actually worked.

The John Deere fiasco resulted in the push for a new "right to repair" law in Nebraska that not only proposed protecting the consumers' right to repair their own tech, but protected independent, third-party repair shops from efforts by many major companies to monopolize repair (Apple and game console vendors like Sony and Microsoft usually come first to mind). This push then quickly spread to multiple other states, driven by a groundswell of consumer annoyance.

Last week, California became the twentieth state in the country to support such a law. It's the second year in a row the legislation has been proposed, with the folks at iFixit explaining that this latest version eyes simply updating the state's existing lemon law:

Last year’s bill was proposed to California law at large, while this year’s bill is an amendment to California’s effective Lemon Law, a.k.a. the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Unique to the state of California, this law requires companies to provide a repair option. It’s been effective at making sure that you can get your six-year-old MacBook Pro fixed by Apple in California—a service that Apple refuses to perform across the border in Arizona. But manufacturers found a loophole in the law allowing them to monopolize repair rather than providing parts to the repair provider of the consumer’s choice. This bill closes that loophole.

Granted the reason no bill has actually been passed yet is thanks to the extensive lobbying done by companies including Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, and Sony, who obviously don't want smaller independent shops (or smart consumers) eroding their repair revenues. More often than not, these companies have tried to scare folks away from such legislation by insisting it will create all manner of new and diabolical privacy and security problems. Apple in particular notoriously warned that the law in Nebraska would somehow make the state a "mecca for hackers."

The efforts proceed all the same. Of the 20 state laws proposed, Minnesota's effort (which has now passed through two state committees) has managed to proceed the furthest. For its part, iFixit notes that the legislation doesn't just aid consumer rights, it can help rein in waste made worse by companies like Apple which impose counterproductive restrictions on re-use and recycling:

"Consumers should have the right to choose their repair provider. Increasing independent repair options will encourage people to fix the electronics and appliances they already own, rather than toss their broken belongings and buy new ones. Independent and self-repair also help people save money, create local jobs, and prevent e-waste—which is now the fastest growing waste stream in the world."

And while numerous giants are working hand-in-hand to scuttle such legislation, it seems like 2019 is likely to see the first such bill finally passed, with many more clearly waiting in the wings as consumers grow increasingly annoyed by high costs and arbitrary restrictions.

Filed Under: california, right to repair

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2019 @ 6:26pm

    Re: Re: You mean THIS Micro$oft? This Appl€?

    Companies attacking Google in Europe for "monopoly":


    Companies that provide alternative internet search options:


    Companies monopolizing repair in the US:


    Pots calling kettles black:


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