The Push for Right to Repair Laws: Repair Roundup, Week of April 18

The Push for Right to Repair Laws: Repair Roundup, Week of April 18

When should governments step in?

Each week, we will bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.

The Big News:

Time for Governments to Act on Repair?

While we are seeing select companies being proactive on repair, repair advocates are pushing for more. Namely: new, repair-focused laws that will require manufacturers to meet higher standards for owner and independent repair, voluntary or not. While promises from the likes of Apple, John Deere, Google, and Samsung are encouraging, advocates say, consumers’ need for timely and affordable access to the information, software, and parts necessary to perform repairs extends well beyond the products made by those firms.  

Fortunately, the options for government action are plentiful. They include:

  • Sector-specific laws: By making parts and information available for a single type of product (think cars or tractors), the chances of passing a law increase significantly given their smaller scope. Most recently we’ve seen repair bills for wheelchairs, electronics and appliances, cars, and agriculture.
  • Extended producer responsibility: New laws could hold companies accountable (typically through taxes) for the full lifecycle of their products. The more waste a company creates, the more it pays for the cost to society of managing that waste.
  • Labeling and information sharing: By getting information to consumers about how repairable their devices are, countries—like France, which introduced a Repair Index label for certain types of electronics—can give consumers the information they need to make smart purchasing decisions and steer clear of unrepairable products.

The bottom line: Government intervention in the EU, Washington D.C., or statehouses could raise the bar for how businesses think about the sustainability of the products they produce, including issues like service and repair. If passed, these laws could make change happen more quickly.

Other News:

Symposium on Right To Repair: April 22 and 29th (UC Berkley Law)

If you’re interested in the intersection of the right to repair with law and policy, you’ll want to set aside some time for the next two Fridays to attend a great, two-part symposium hosted by Berkeley Law on the Emergent Right to Repair. (That includes *ahem* yours truly, speaking on the 22nd on a panel concerning consumer protection issues.) You can register here!

Judge Again Postpones Decision in Massachusetts Right to Repair Case (JD Supra)

A federal judge in Massachusetts said on April 15 that he would need another two and a half months to issue a decision on a challenge brought by an industry trade association to a right to repair ballot initiative passed by Massachusetts voters in November 2020.  Citing the “complexities” of the case and the “resurgence of a demanding criminal trial schedule,” Judge Douglas Woodlock said that he would need until July 1, 2022, to issue a final decision. The case was initially tried in June, 2021 but re-opened in October of that year. Additional testimony concluded in January with a decision expected in March and, later, April.  

The refurbished smartphone market grew globally by 15% in 2021 (29% in Latin America and 25% in India). A large number of factors are leading to this growth like smartphone costs, consumer attitudes on sustainability, the rollout of 5G, and e-commerce platforms selling refurbished phones.

Right to Repair Legislation: Momentum and Challenges Ahead (Lexology)

In July 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that encourages the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement self-repair regulations that would prohibit original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from imposing restrictions on independent repair shops. At the same time, legislative action is picking up momentum at the federal and state level. The right to repair movement is also gaining traction in Europe. EU lawmakers are responding with their own legislative proposals. But challenges remain.

Europe Doubles Down on USB-C (ZDNet)

The USB-C charger is becoming the standard charger for devices in Europe. Companies are not only being required to include the charging port on devices but are also now labeling devices that are sold with a charger to reduce e-waste. Apple will be impacted the most since its devices rely on the Lightning cable.