Half the Country Is Now Considering Right to Repair Laws

The movement has gained momentum and now 25 states are considering right-to-repair laws.
March 15, 2021, 1:00pm
Repairg the common toaster
Image: iFixit photo
Screen Shot 2021-02-03 at 12
State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

The right-to-repair movement is poised to explode in 2021. When your stuff breaks, you should be able to fix it yourself. Tech manufactures want to control the methods of repair and companies such as Apple and John Deere do so at the detriment of their customers. But people across the world are tired of it and 25 states in the U.S. are considering right-to-repair legislation in 2021.

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“Right to Repair is unstoppable and coming to a state near you. Lawmakers everywhere are seeing that Right to Repair is common sense: You buy a product, you own it, and you should be able to fix it,” Kerry Maeve Sheehan, the U.S. policy lead for the repair community iFixit, said in a press release. “With 25 states considering Right to Repair legislation in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before Right to Repair is the law of the land.”

Right-to-repair is a problem bigger than Apple charging $300 to replace a cracked iPhone screen. Covid-19 put hospitals in a desperate situation. Patients needed ventilators to survive and there weren’t enough to go around. When one broke down, it often required a special technician to repair. Manufacturers made it impossible for hospital staff to do simple repairs to life saving equipment. The right-to-repair medical equipment is the subject of California’s SB 605 and Hawaii’s SB 760.

In other parts of the country, farmers are unable to till fields because their fancy new John Deere tractors won’t start until a technician clears out error codes in its software. John Deere promised it would provide the equipment and documentation farmers would need to make their own repairs by 2021. It lied. Now Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Vermont, South Carolina, and Missouri are looking to make the right-to-repair agricultural equipment the law of the land.

The pandemic made the world reliant on technology for work and human connection. As the lockdowns came, Apple shut down many of its repair centers and it became hard, if not impossible, for people to get simple repairs for this stuff. The independent repair business boomed, but the people trying to fix had to work around draconian systems built into machines meant to keep out anyone but the original manufacturer. “I was fixing people’s devices that were under warranty because these people couldn’t wait 4 to 8 weeks for Apple to fix their stuff,” 17-year old repair entrepreneur Sam Mencimer told Motherboard in February.

Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington state are all considering broad laws that would apply to most of the stuff we use everyday.

It’s not just America. The European Union has also embraced the right-to-repair and is pushing manufacturers to make repair easier and more affordable. “We see and feel the momentum building, Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of Repair.org said in a press release. “Legislation is moving not just in the United States, but also around the globe. The time for manufacturers to get on the right side of their customers, and history, is now.”