Those of us who view the “no user serviceable parts inside” phrase as a challenge rather than a warning will sympathize with the right to repair movement.
The movement is a growing phenomenon. It arises from frustrations when manufacturers of everything from electronics to cars to McDonald’s ice cream machines make it difficult for anyone else to repair what they make.
The poster child for the movement is farm equipment manufacturers that refuse to give access to software on the machines. That prevents both equipment owners and other repair shops from servicing them. Other methods used by manufacturers include making it difficult to get parts and specialized tools, and withholding repair manuals.
Some farmers have turned to hacked software from Eastern Europe so they can do their own repairs. Demand and prices for pre-1990 tractors have been increasing because farmers want to avoid the problem.
To be clear, this is not about manufacturers making products easier to repair, or about planned obsolescence. Although some people would like it to be. It is about manufacturers making it difficult or impossible for anyone other than themselves to do repairs.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak supports the right to repair movement. He said, “We wouldn’t have an Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.” His perspective on it is worth reading.
The Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy recently took the position that Canada needs right to repair legislation, but admits it won’t be easy. The public policy think tank calls for advocates to get together to deliver a coherent message to government.
There are some state laws in the U.S. Massachusetts has one despite massive lobbying efforts against it by automakers.
NO JUSTIFICATION FOR REPAIR RESTRICTIONS
President Biden signed an executive order on July 9th directing the Federal Trade Commission to draft right to repair regulations. The FTC had delivered a report to Congress that concluded “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions”. A similar order is expected to be directed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for farm equipment.
Right to repair laws must be carefully considered and drafted. While some manufacturer concerns may be somewhat specious, care needs to be taken to make laws practical and not over-reach or cause other problems.
There is an understanding that this issue is not simple, and it may take a while before there is any meaningful regulation. But it may be inevitable.
This post was also published on the HPtechlaw blog. To get Harrison Pensa’s Tech Law Weekly Newsletter – which includes a blog post and other top stories at the intersection of tech and law – delivered to your inbox each week, you can sign up here.