Right to Repair

Right to Repair Is Gaining Ground in 2020

Examining a broken-open device at a repair cafe

Less than two months into 2020, the Right to Repair movement is expanding, gaining new ground, and proving more popular than even advocates would have guessed. Here’s what’s happening.

Legislation

Proposed laws that require companies to offer parts, manuals, and specialty diagnostic tools to the public will be introduced in 21 states in 2020, following an expected filing in Pennsylvania.

A few of those bills have been heard and advanced, to promising effect. The Massachusetts bill cleared one committee and is now on its way to the full Senate, following spirited debate in late 2019. The same goes for Hawaii, where a consumer protection committee furthered a bill to the House Judiciary Committee. While Washington state’s hearing didn’t move that bill forward, it showed that the opposition is perhaps strategically no longer fighting bills in the public forum, relying instead on private meetings with legislators.

CompTIA agrees to halt lobbying against Right to Repair

The Computing Technology Industry Association sells certificate-based training to repair technicians. The trade group has also previously lobbied against Right to Repair legislation, seemingly on behalf of Apple. But after Louis Rossman called out their conflict of interest and set up a boycott petition, CompTIA agreed to halt its lobbying operations.

France sues Apple under obsolescence law

Apple tried to quietly address the issue of older iPhones crashing when running on worn-down batteries by throttling performance. In doing so, it made iPhones run slower, and didn’t tell customers, leaving some to feel like it was time to upgrade.

Tech-minded types noticed suspicious slowdowns and raised the alarm. We called it Batterygate. Apple responded by offering discounted battery replacements and apologizing for not telling customers. After launching its investigation in April 2018, a French government anti-planned-obsolescence watchdog group fined Apple €25 million. It’s not a huge penalty for a company that made about $98.4 billion in profit in 2019, but it is a sign that governments are on the lookout for tactics that artificially limit the lifespan of their products.

Farmers’ group demands fair repair

The American Farm Bureau Federation, representing more than 6 million member families, voted in January that farmers and ranchers have the right to fix their own equipment. Pointing to Massachusetts’ landmark right to repair ballot initiative, the Federation made clear that, if a deal cannot be reached to obtain fair prices for diagnostic tools, their group will back right to repair legislation.

Right to repair is popular across parties, and just getting started

Data for Progress asked nearly 1,000 people in early January how they felt about a new president, on day one, taking one of 29 different executive actions to immediately change policy. Among those immediate actions was using antitrust powers to ensure device owners’ full rights to repair their own equipment. More than 60 percent of those polled approved of such a measure—including people from both parties.

What’s more, the repair measure had the highest net approval margin. There aren’t many issues you can present to people that won’t turn into a partisan exercise, but fair repair seems to cut more swiftly across the political divide.

Less than two months into 2020, and it seems like this year is going to be a formative one for a more robust repair economy. Keep the momentum building by getting involved and speaking up where you live.