Just three weeks into the new year, Right to Repair laws are being proposed across the country. These laws would restore our ability to fix the things we own by making parts, manuals, and diagnostic software available to consumers and independent repair shops. The fight is being waged coast-to-coast, with small mom-and-pop shops up against some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world.
Over the last few years, the rag-tag Right to Repair coalition has scored a number of victories: legalizing cell phone unlocking in Congress, getting the FTC to rule “warranty void if removed” stickers null and void, and convincing the US Copyright office to grant a number of repair exemptions to federal copyright law. And in 2018 alone, Right to Repair made groundbreaking headway on the state level: 19 states introduced Right to Repair legislation—a big uptick from 12 repair-friendly states in 2017.
In 1982, a family in the US bought a microwave oven. In 2012, thirty years later, the microwave was still working. In 2017, a young lady purchased an iPhone upgrade and a protective case. Four months later, with a splintered screen from a few bounces on the floor, the same young lady must purchase a new phone.
Six months after the FTC warned six companies their “void warranty if removed” labels are forbidden under warranty laws, a survey by the consumer group U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that the vast majority of appliance manufacturers continue to oppose independent repair. Of the 50 appliance manufacturers surveyed, 45 automatically void the warranties if the device had “unauthorized” repair.