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Right to Repair: What You Need to Know

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Static Control Aug 11 2021
Once you purchase a product, what rights do you have to repair or refurbish it?? This issue is being debated worldwide. The Right to Repair legislation would allow consumers to repair their electrical or mechanical devices, be it a smartphone’s broken glass or the battery in a laptop. Consumer products such as electronics, printing products and even vehicles are becoming more complex, and many manufacturers have created systems preventing repairs outside of an authorized vendor or OEM.

Heavily criticized, the practice of requiring consumers to return to the manufacturer for repairs prevents third-parties from providing maintenance and even manufacturing improved or more eco-friendly parts for products. The Right to Repair movement is on the rise throughout the world thanks to proposed legislation around the globe.

In the United States
Most recently, the Right to Repair movement is celebrating a huge win in the United States! On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order titled, “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” which is aimed at promoting stronger economic competition. President Biden called on the Federal Trade Commission to institute rules to end anticompetitive restrictions that limit consumers’ ability to repair products. Specifically, President Biden aimed the legislation towards the technology and farming sector.

“No more tolerance for abusive actions by monopolies… Capitalism without competition isn’t competition, it’s exploitation.” Biden said in the press conference where he announced the executive order.
Prior to the executive order, many states have proposed Right to Repair bills, but only Massachusetts has made it into law. The Massachusetts legislation requires auto manufacturers to provide diagnostic and repair information to owners and independent auto repair shops for cars made after 2015. However, in June 2021 an automotive manufacturer alliance started a legal bid to block revisions of the law that specifically expanded access to mechanical and electronic repairs.

Currently, each state differs in its proposed legislation. Agricultural states like South Carolina have proposals that focus primarily on farming equipment, while California’s focus is medical devices. U.S. Congressman Joe Morelle from the 25th district of New York has proposed a Fair Repair Act that would give small businesses and consumers the right to repair devices.  In his press release, Morelle highlighted the issues at hand:

“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy, they deserve.”

The Fair Repair Act will require OEMs to make diagnostic and repair information, parts and tools available to third-party repairers and owners and on fair and reasonable terms, helping consumers and repair shops to avoid unnecessary and costly delays while also reducing waste. This bill allows for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to penalize those who violate these provisions through civil penalties including payment of damages, reformation of contracts, and refund of money or property. It also empowers the FTC to promulgate any rules or regulations necessary to carry out these enforcement duties. The Fair Repair Act authorizes state attorneys general to enforce the bill’s provisions as well. [1]

The Fair Repair Act will not be voted on until after the state assembly reconvenes in January 2022, and if approved would have to be signed into law by the present NY Governor.

In May 2021, The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), submitted the “Nixing the Fix” report to Congress outlining the anti-competitive practices in the repair industry that reveal the substantial number of ways consumers and third-party repair shops are limited or completely prevented in their ability to repair products. The FTC found that numerous OEMs inaccurately use policies and statements to deter consumers from using third-party products and repair centers. OEMs often use patent rights and trademark enforcement to limit repairs done outside of their own companies.

In July 2021, by a unanimous vote among the five commissioners, the FTC decided to move forward with a new policy regarding Right to Repair. This decision was foreshadowed by the May 2021 report sent to Congress.
The policy statement reads, “restricting consumers and businesses from choosing how they repair products can substantially increase the total cost of repair, generate harmful electronic waste, and unnecessarily increase wait times for repairs. In contrast, providing more choice in repairs can lead to lower costs, reduce e-waste by extending the useful lifespan of products, enable more timely repairs, and provide economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and local businesses.” [1,4]

 The Commission is taking the following steps:
  • Raising enforcement of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits tie-in sales.
  • Examining repair restrictions to determine whether they constitute unfair competition or deceptive trade practices and/or violate US antitrust laws.
  • Coordinate with state law enforcement and local policymakers to “advance the goal of open repair markets.” [3,4]   
In Europe
Right to Repair is not just an issue in the United States. In July 2021, the United Kingdom’s government has also introduced new Right to Repair legislation following a series of protests, the largest of which took place in Belgium in front of the European Commission. The protest was organized by the European Right to Repair Campaign. The demonstration included groups of protestors and a pile of end-of-life printers. 
“Printers are one of the most iconic examples of premature obsolescence and some of the least repairable products brought to community repair events. According to data from Open Repair Alliance, only 37% of printers get repaired at events, while 33% are deemed end of life,” said Chloé Mikolajczak, campaigner for the Right to Repair campaign.[2]

The UK’s legislation is aimed at overcoming “premature obsolescence,” which is a practice where manufacturers make products with a short lifespan on purpose, which leads to costly and unnecessary maintenance and replacements for the consumer. Manufacturers in the United Kingdom are now legally obligated to make spare parts available to third party professional repairers. Currently only dishwashers, washing machines, refrigeration appliances, televisions and other electronic displays are included in the legislation.

Why it Matters to the Imaging Industry
As the leading aftermarket supplier, Static Control Components is a huge supporter of the Right to Repair movement. We believe in remanufacturing and feel the right to repair issue strikes close to the heart of our industry. For more than 30 years, we have provided the components allowing laser toner cartridges to be reused instead of sent to a landfill. We continue to be the only full range supplier that provides remanufacturers with everything they need to repair cartridges for reuse.
[1]  (2021, June 17) Legislation Would Finally Give Small Businesses and Consumers the Right to Repair their own products like cell phones and computers. Morrelle.
[2] (2021, May 26) Protestors Turn Out to Support Right to Repair. The Recycler.
[3] Keck, C. (2021, July 9). President Joe Biden’s Latest Executive Order is a Huge Win for the Right ot Repair. The Verge.
[4] Crouch, D. (2021, July 21). Right to Repair at the FTC. PatentlyO.

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