In this blog post, we take an in-depth look at major right-to-repair news in the first half of 2023.
Welcome to a new installment of our Right to Repair recap series! If you were looking for the previous edition, you can read it here.
In this blog post, we will delve into the most significant developments concerning the Right to Repair movement during the first half of 2023. We’ll start by covering some basics about the Right to Repair, what it stands for, and what its advocates and critics have to say about it. Then, we'll take a comprehensive look at what has happened in the United States and Europe until the end of July 2023.
What is the Right to Repair?
For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Right to Repair is a broad movement that strives to level the playing field between manufacturers and consumers when it comes to product repairs. To do so, Right to Repair supporters want to introduce legislation that will regulate manufacturers’ control over the repair market.
The objective of the Right to Repair
A central goal of the Right to Repair movement is to improve the accessibility of repair resources (such as repair manuals, tools and parts) to give consumers a better chance of maintaining and fixing their own products. Furthermore, making repair resources more accessible would also benefit independent repair shops, allowing them to compete more effectively with authorized repair providers.
Such a measure aims to offset the dominant repair model, whereby manufacturers typically work with a network of authorized service providers that must comply with stringent manufacturer requirements in exchange for exclusive access to official parts, repair manuals and information, and other tools.
The two sides of the debate
Broadly speaking, Right to Repair backers argue that introducing legislation in support of their agenda will benefit consumers by enhancing competition, curbing the accumulation of e-waste, and increasing repair opportunities in remote or underserved locations.
Meanwhile, critics fear that right-to-repair regulation may cause serious security vulnerabilities (such as giving ill-intentioned technicians unauthorized access to user data) and safety risks (for instance, if medical devices are involved).
Their concerns are also related to how faulty repairs and insufficient quality controls on the part of independent repair shops could potentially damage manufacturers' brand reputation. In addition, pushing manufacturers to share detailed device information such as full schematics could expose their intellectual property, which could then be exploited by their competitors.
Right to Repair Updates
A lot has happened since our last blog on the Right to Repair. Over the past six months, not much has changed in Europe, although the European Commission has submitted a proposal to promote consumers’ right to repair.
In contrast, the Right to Repair movement has picked up significant momentum in the US, with legislation being enacted in New York, and signed into law in Minnesota and Colorado.
1. The European Commission finally submits its Right to Repair proposal
The proposed directive would give consumers a right to request repairs from manufacturers for all products deemed as “repairable” under EU law, including electronic devices like smartphones or TVs, as well as household appliances such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
Interestingly, these new rules would apply to products in and out of warranty. The Commission’s proposal demands that sellers provide repair services within product warranty periods, unless carrying out a repair is more expensive than providing a replacement. Moreover, producers may be compelled to offer repairs for products for up to 10 years after they are sold.
According to the EC's proposal, customers should always have options to repair their devices, even after the legal warranty period expires.
- In this regard, the law dictates that sellers must provide information regarding repair alternatives for their devices; and that they will be legally required to inform consumers of any products that they should repair by themselves.
- Repair providers would also need to give consumers full information on repair price and conditions through the new ‘European Repair Information Form’, which would allow consumers to compare repair offers more easily.
- In addition, an “easy repair” standard will be available to all EU-based repairers willing to commit to some essential quality standards (i.e., regarding repair duration or product availability).
- Lastly, the European proposal also contemplates the creation of an online “matchmaking” repair platform to connect consumers with local repairers and sellers of refurbished goods.
The proposal is now awaiting the votes of the European Council and the European Parliament.
2. Colorado gives farmers the right to diagnose and fix their own equipment
In April, Colorado’s governor Jared Polis signed into law legislation giving farmers and ranchers the right to fix their own agricultural equipment.
Previously, farmers had complained about profit losses due to costly repairs, software locks placed by manufacturers, and long waits before official servicers arrived to fix technical issues.
The bill will require agricultural equipment manufacturers such as John Deere to provide manuals for diagnostic software and other repair resources. Both farmers and third-party repair shops will have access to these repair aids from January 1st, 2024, when the law will go into effect.
3. Minnesota approves extensive right-to-repair legislation
On May 24, 2023, Minnesota passed its own right to repair legislation, considered to be one of the biggest wins yet for the Right to Repair movement. The structure of the Minnesota law closely resembles New York's famous Digital Fair Repair Act, but it includes some notable (and impactful) variations.
Similar to New York’s bill, the law in Minnesota tackles core safety and security concerns by excluding some items from its purview, such as medical and farm equipment, motor vehicles, certain cybersecurity tools, and video game consoles.
Still, the Minnesotan legislation is far more comprehensive than New York’s, as it applies to consumer electronics, household appliances (a first in the country), circuit boards, and devices acquired in business-to-business or business-to-government deals. For this reason, the law will bear on devices used in companies, educational institutions, and government bodies.
In view of Minnesota’s new right-to-repair law, manufacturers of phones, computers, and home appliances will have to sell replacement parts and share documentation and software needed to fix electronic devices with consumers and independent repair businesses. Adding some further nuance to this, Minnesota's bill does specify that manufacturers won’t have to sell parts for off-the-market products.
Although Minnesota’s bill will be enacted a full year later than New York’s, on July 1, 2024, its application will be much broader and retroactive. In fact, the legislation in Minnesota will affect devices sold on or after July 1, 2021.
4. New York’s Digital Fair Repair Act enters into force
At the tail end of last year, New York broke headlines across the United States as the first state to pass a right-to-repair law that was to be broadly applied to electronic devices.
On July 1, 2023 the Digital Fair Repair Act finally entered into force. As a result, manufacturers will now be required to provide manuals, diagrams, diagnostics and parts to device owners and third-party repair providers for devices sold or manufactured in New York after July 1, 2023.
It is important to note that a number of amendments were made to the law before it came into effect. For one, New York’s bill does not apply to motor vehicles, farm equipment, medical devices, or home appliances.
The law is also focused on gadgets purchased directly from retailers, and it excludes products sold in business-to-government or business-to-business deals.
Manufacturers have also been allowed to maintain some repair limitations in connection to security and financial concerns:
- For instance, they can sell assembled parts instead of individual items if improper part installation could result in added safety risks.
- Manufacturers can also opt out of sharing device passwords or security codes with third-party repair providers that would allow them to bypass device locks.
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog post!
Overall, the Right to Repair movement has made significant progress in the first half of 2023, with the European Commission proposing common repair rules in the EU and states like Colorado and Minnesota passing ground-breaking right-to-repair laws in the US.
Despite ongoing debates on security and safety concerns, the movement's impact on the after-sales industry and consumer rights in repair is expected to continue growing.
If you want to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the Right to Repair movement and the repair industry more broadly, please make sure you follow us on LinkedIn, where you will be the first to know about Fixably's future blog posts.