Right To Repair, California? Here’s All You Need To Know

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Smartphone with a broken screen.

According to a 2019 report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Environmental Program (UNEP), global electronic waste (known as “e-waste”) reached 53.6 million tons in 2019.  Unless we decrease electronic waste, we will produce an estimated 120 million tons of e-waste per year in 2050.

In this article, we’ll discuss Right To Repair legislation and why it’s such a critical part of solving the problem of electronic waste. When it comes to a Right To Repair law, California consumers and repair shops like Screenworks would benefit greatly from its passage.

Why Is Right To Repair Important?

The Right To Repair is a movement that pushes for government legislation that supports consumers’ ability and right to repair products on their own.

If you’ve ever tried to fix your iPhone or save money with a DIY auto repair, you’ve likely realized that it’s almost impossible to do a successful repair without going to the manufacturer. Currently, manufacturers require customers to use their services to maintain or repair their devices.

If you’re a third-party repair shop, many manufacturers will restrict access to manuals and documentation that instructs technicians on proper diagnostics and repairs.

The Federal Trade Commission noted that requiring consumers to purchase repairs or get access to repair information exclusively from manufacturers limits choice, increases costs, and impacts consumer rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. A 2019 report by the U.S. PIRG showed that device repair monopolies save American families about $330 per repair if they repaired products and used them for longer periods.

Where did Right To Repair start?

The idea behind the “right to repair” started in the United States within the automotive industry. In 2012, Massachusetts passed the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right To Repair Act, which required auto manufacturers to provide consumers with the documents and information necessary to repair their vehicles.

Although the Right To Repair Act was initially passed by Massachusetts, not the federal government, numerous U.S. trade organizations within the auto industry agreed in 2018 to adhere to Massachusetts’ Right To Repair Act. Although the Right To Repair movement started within the automotive industry, the movement has spread to other industries.

Now, protecting a consumer’s right to repair products includes fending off John Deere’s expensive tractor repairs, Sony’s monopoly on gaming console repair, and Apple’s ongoing issues with third-party device repair shops.

What are the benefits of Right To Repair?

Right To Repair legislation allows consumers to repair their own electronic products and extend the life of their electronics, ultimately helping to reduce global electronics waste. Rather than toss that old iPhone or ditch your car, you can repair it yourself or visit third-party repair shops.

Additionally, enacting Right To Repair laws will promote competition within the repair industry, supporting the growth of local businesses. This means when you need to repair your iPhone, for example, you can choose between the Genius Bar at Apple stores or third-party repair shops.

What are the top concerns about Right To Repair?

There are numerous cost-saving benefits for consumers who want more repair options, including DIY repair options, including electronics, farm equipment, and automobiles. However, there are concerns that Right To Repair opponents have raised as legislative action has taken place.

When customers need electronics and equipment repairs, they want repairs that are fast and done for a reasonable price. Because speed and price are typically the top priorities for consumers, many wannabe DIYers may grow impatient while waiting for replacement parts to arrive.

In addition, giving consumers the ability to repair products on their own doesn’t necessarily mean that consumers will conduct repairs safely or properly. To ensure that consumers have the ability to safely repair their own devices, manufacturers will need to educate consumers on the best places to buy replacement parts and the proper steps to repair devices without any safety issues.

Does California Have A Right To Repair Law?

In March 2018, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced the California Right To Repair Act that would require companies to provide consumers with repair guides and access to repair parts. For third-party shops and independent companies, the California Right To Repair would force automobile manufacturers and tech companies like Apple to provide access to diagnostic tools and software that are now only available to authorized partners and first-party technicians.

Tech giants like Appel and Microsoft are understandably lobbying against Right To Repair bills, arguing that such legislation could lead to greater liability concerns and security issues for consumers. Tim Sparapani, consumer privacy advisor for the Security Innovation Center (SIC), voiced his concern that the legislation is “laced with unintended consequences that could lead to the creation of more vulnerabilities for California consumers.”

However,  Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior staff attorney Kit Walsh, countered that “[t]he bill is critical to protect independent repair shops and a competitive market for repair, which means better service and lower prices.”

Right To Repair Laws In 2021

As of 2021, MacRumors reported that 27 states have considered some form of Right To Repair legislation. However, most of these laws have been blocked and dismissed due to lobbying efforts of those representing tech companies like Apple and Microsoft.

To its credit, Apple has launched an initiative to expand its Independent Repair Provider Program to over 200 countries. Though the program is free, participating repair shops must have an Apple-certified technician repair all Apple devices. This presents an entry barrier for many shops, especially since some critical parts like iPad displays are still only available through Apple stores or Apple Authorized Service Providers.

To learn about the status of Right To Repair legislation within California, visit repair.org. We hope you join us in supporting Right To Repair legislation so local repair shops like Screenworks can continue to provide you with amazing service.

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