This year’s fight for the right to repair your stuff is on, and we are feeling optimistic.
In the US, we’re expecting right to repair bills in at least 25 states—bills that will cover everything from iPhones to tractors to wheelchairs, with broad bipartisan support. The European Commission has promised a right to repair legislative proposal in the third quarter of 2022, as part of the European Green Deal. In Canada, Member of Parliament Bryan May is likely to reintroduce a bill that stalled in committee last year, as right to repair is now part of his party’s platform and May has been appointed to a leadership position. The Australian Government is expected to act this year on a December 2021 Productivity Commission report, which found “significant and unnecessary barriers to repair.”
The US effort kicked off last week with public hearings for right to repair bills in Illinois and Washington State. Nineteen states have already carried over or restarted their 2021 repair bills, and two new states have joined the fray, according to Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association. She expects many of these bills to get out of committee, onto state senate floors: “We’re looking forward to floor action all over the US across a full spectrum of industries,” Gordon-Byrne said.
At the Washington State hearing last week, Microsoft was neutral—a big step forward, since the company has opposed legislation in their home state in previous years. The Washington bill would require manufacturers to make parts, tools, and repair information available to independent repair shops in January 2023, then to individual consumers in January 2024.
Last year set the stage for this kind of repair revolution. France introduced a repairability index that requires manufacturers of smartphones, laptops, televisions, washing machines, and lawnmowers to rate how repairable their products are. Australia passed a law that will require car manufacturers to give parts, tools, and documentation to independent repair shops. And in the US, right to repair bills got further than ever before, passing one half of the New York state legislature. President Biden issued an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take action against repair restrictions, and the FTC soon after pledged to fight them.
“It’s high time that we get Right to Repair done. With backing from the Biden Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, we have more momentum than ever. Consumers are sick and tired of paying high repair prices,” said iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens.
Any smart manufacturer looking at this momentum should realize that the days of repair monopolies are numbered—and some are starting to listen. Facing a shareholder resolution asking them to provide better access to repair, Apple announced that they would begin providing parts, tools, and documentation for new iPhones starting early this year. Staring down a similar shareholder right to repair resolution, Microsoft agreed to study the potential impact of making repair easier (and act on their findings). The same organization behind Apple’s shareholder resolution, Green Century, just filed a repair proposal with Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
There’s new energy in the fight for an agricultural right to repair, too: A class action lawsuit filed against John Deere this month accuses the company of anticompetitive repair practices that unfairly restrict consumers.
Companies that insist on repair restrictions have “run out of excuses,” according to Nathan Proctor, senior campaign director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Fixing things when they break is just common sense, and it’s an ecological necessity. We calculated that if Americans used their cell phones one year longer on average, it would have the climate benefits of taking 636,000 cars off the road.”
“Repair restrictions are causing problems across our society,” Kevin O’Reilly, right to repair campaign director for U.S. PIRG, said. “Medical device manufacturers are preventing hospitals from quickly and safely fixing broken equipment like ventilators at the same time agricultural manufacturers are locking farmers out of fixing their tractors. For the sake of frontline workers and our healthcare system, for the sake of our farmers and our food supply—we need to pass Right to Repair.”
If you’d like to help, calling or writing your legislators is a great way to make your voice heard. In the US, every state with repair legislation in consideration has its own repair.org domain, with a contact form and a calling tool that will put you directly in touch with your legislators: http://washington.repair.org, http://illinois.repair.org, http://california.repair.org, and so on.
If you’re in the European Union, check out repair.eu. In Australia, the Griffith University Law Futures hosts Repair Australia. If you’re in Canada, keep your eye on CanRepair.
We’re also asking you to share your repair genius this week. Take iFixit’s pledge to fix more stuff and post a photo of your most recent repair on social media for a chance to win $100 to the iFixit store. Don’t forget to use #imagenius and @ifixit. Last day to enter is January 31st, 2022.