Device repair is becoming a hot-button issue nowadays, especially with the constant rise of smartphone users. Usually, for device issues, consumers are limited to either visiting an authorized repair center or getting a replacement. Legislators across the country are pushing for a ‘right to repair’ bill that will give consumers other options for device repair. However, consumer electronics manufacturers are lobbying against the law, citing consumer protection and possible security breaches as grounds for contention.
Inspiration from the Automotive Industry
The first ‘Right to Repair’ act came from the US car scene when Massachusetts passed the bill in 2012. Named the ‘Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act,’ it required car manufacturers to provide information for repairing their vehicles. While this law was limited to the state, major automobile makers agreed to follow suit in all 50 states starting 2018.
This law inspired The Repair Association (TRA) to propose the same in the field of consumer electronics. Representing device repair service shops, among others, the TRA has moved for the bill to be approved in several states.
Right to Repair: What It Does
In the proposed bill, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) will be mandated to provide manuals and diagnostic software for their products. OEMs will also be required to release replacement parts and the appropriate tools to the market for purchase. This means individuals and device repair service centers will be able to diagnose device issues and quickly fix them accurately.
The law is also looking into developing a healthy competition in both the device repair service and the manufacturing sector. With the option for easier repairs available, consumers can still opt to purchase a new device if they want to.
Information and Physical Safety Risks
Several companies in the field of consumer electronics are moving to stop the bill from passing. One of their main points for concern is the possible increase of device hacking. They argue that if the law is successfully enacted, this will allow hackers and to access any device freely. While a legitimate security concern, security experts are giving assurance that fixing devices can be safe.
Aside from device hacking, manufacturers are also concerned that their proprietary information and intellectual properties would be at risk. As they will be required to provide information about their products, it is possible for their products to be reversed-engineered. This will lead to the items being recreated and sold at a lower cost, affecting their sales.
Physical harm has also been cited by lobbyists against the right to repair bill. Lawmakers saw during a recent meeting in California that accidentally puncturing the batteries during the repair could result in injury. However, this possibility has not wavered support for the bill’s approval.