Your IP: Unknown · Your Status: ProtectedUnprotectedUnknown

Skip to main content

What is the right to repair act? All you need to know about the act and legislation in 2024

Right to repair acts give consumers the legal right to repair and replace specific parts within their smartphones and computers. In theory, legislation of this kind can save people from having to buy an entirely new device whenever their current one breaks. In this article, we explain what a right to repair act does and explore the current state of these laws.

What is the right to repair act? All you need to know about the act and legislation in 2024

What is the right to repair?

The right to repair is the right of an individual to have their hardware repaired or modified without having to rely on the original manufacturer.

Without the right to repair, the original equipment manufacturers can design their products in such a way that only they can repair them. They can even put consumers in the position of having to replace defective hardware instead of fixing it.

Manufacturers can limit your right to repair by designing products that only they can repair or modify, using components that no one outside the company can access. This forces consumers to either pay them for repairs or buy new products when the old ones break.

The origins of the right to repair go back to the 1950s, when legislation was passed in the US requiring hardware producers like IBM to make their products repairable by independent repair services or individual consumers. Since then, companies have been in continuous conflict with campaigners and government bodies over this issue. This has been particularly noticeable in the automobile and agricultural industries. For example, many farmers have campaigned for the right to repair farm equipment themselves, without having to buy costly additional tools or rely on the manufacturer.

Throughout the last 30 years, the focus of the right to repair discussion has been on electronic devices like phones, laptops, and household appliances. Campaigners argue that we need the right to repair to protect and help consumers, but why is this?

Why do we need the right to repair?

According to right to repair advocates, the right to repair is a way to cement your ownership of the things you buy, and to free you from enforced reliance on any one company. It also prevents companies from monopolizing the repair of their products, encouraging them to offer competitive prices (since independent repair companies can potentially undercut them).

Another benefit of the right to repair is its potential to reduce wastage. Tech waste is a major problem, and since corporations usually make more money from people buying new devices than repairing their old ones, they’re not incentivized to change this. If you can easily repair your own device, or have a local business do it for you, you’re less likely to throw it away and buy a new model when the old one runs into problems.

Overall, the right to repair gives more power to the consumer and has the potential to lower prices and reduce waste. This all sounds very positive, so why are companies lobbying against the right to repair?

Why are companies lobbying against the right to repair?

Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Tesla, among other companies, have invested money into lobbying against right to repair legislation, according to a report by Bloomberg. These corporations usually claim that their objections stem from understandable concerns.

In the case of Apple, for example, their representatives have said that right to repair acts could force them to reveal sensitive information and company secrets which could then be used by competitors. They also raise concerns about devices being damaged or rendered ineffective by poor-quality jobs carried out by independent repair shops, suggesting that their devices are too complex for third parties to repair.

Cybersecurity experts disagree with Apple’s claims, insisting these are scare tactics — according to them, Apple devices can be repaired by third parties without compromising anyone’s security.

While the companies lobbying against these laws may not state it outright, another objection might arise from concerns about the financial impact of the right to repair movement. Right to repair laws make a manufacturer’s customers less dependent on them long-term, open companies up to more competition, and can potentially force them to lower their prices.

Despite intensive lobbying campaigns, right to repair legislation is being considered and enacted in many countries, including the US.

What is the right to repair legislation?

Most right to repair legislation requires manufacturers of specific product types to make their products repairable by entities other than them. This could involve legally obliging a company to ensure that a device they sell can be fixed using common tools that a consumer can easily access.

Right to repair acts can also require that companies sell or provide individual device parts, rather than forcing consumers to completely replace defective hardware. This means that, instead of buying a new phone when one part of your current device breaks, you can take it to a repair store. The store owner can then order the part directly from the manufacturer and fix the issue.

The details of each law vary from one piece of legislation to another, and different states and countries enforce different regulations. In France, for example, electric products are required to be sold with a repairability score, allowing potential customers to gauge how easily they can repair an item themselves.

With a growing number of right to repair bills being passed in the US and beyond, let’s take a look at the state of this legislation as of 2023.

What is the state of the legislation in 2023?

As of 2023, the EU and the UK have all passed some form of right to repair legislation. Both the EU and UK have passed laws requiring the manufacturers of kitchen appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators, as well as TV makers, to ensure that device parts can be replaced with common tools.

Meanwhile, the EU is working on legislation that could apply similar rules to consumer electronics like computers, tablets, and smartphones, in a move supported by advocacy groups like Right To Repair Europe.

Progress is also being made in the US. New York passed a major right to repair act (The Digital Fair Repair Act, S4104-A/A7006-B) in late 2022, and other states have considered or are preparing similar legislation. According to a PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups) report, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Minnesota have also passed similar acts in recent years. In many other states, these bills have failed to pass, however, or are moving slowly. Bills that do pass have been criticized by right to repair advocacy groups for being too lenient.

Despite a growing discourse around the right to repair and clear successes in some legislative areas, right to repair advocates still have a long way to go.