From Ian Stanfield —
For the last few years, Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy has been supporting the passage of right to repair legislation. This year, that is House Bill 1392 and its companion Senate Bill 5464. Both bills had their public hearings last week, and Quaker Voice provided the following testimony in support of them.
Repair restrictions make it more difficult, or even dangerous, for repair technicians to maintain or repair equipment without the approval and support of the original manufacturer. Independent repair technicians working in under-served communities are disproportionately affected by these anti-competitive practices. Ultimately, lack of competition drives up the cost of repairs. It also makes it more difficult for consumers to find repair services, often forcing them to use mail-in services. Because these technologies are often necessary for daily life, losing access to their electronics for such a long time is a significant burden on top of the financial costs. Together, these costs disincentivize maintenance and repair work, and incentivize replacing electronics. Otherwise functional technology ends up entering the waste cycle. The existence of electronics recycling programs is an insufficient band-aid; when possible, it’s better to reduce the production of waste in the first place.
In short, repair restrictions create financial and time costs that fall heavily on low-income and marginalized communities while further damaging our environment. It makes no sense to impose these costs on people and planet without a compelling reason.
Manufacturers justify repair restrictions in a number of ways. Manufacturers claim restrictions are necessary to protect repair technicians from injuries during dangerous repairs. Manufacturers claim these are necessary to protect consumers from the dangers and inconveniences of low-quality repairs. Manufacturers claim they need to protect trade secrets and IP. However, the FTC has assessed these arguments. In their 2021 document Nixing the Fix, the FTC reported that they’d received little to no compelling evidence to support the manufacturer’s arguments. Even so, language in the current bills clearly addresses the manufacturers’ concerns.
HB 1392 and SB 5464 would institute simple and straight-forward requirements that will help alleviate the negative effects of repair restrictions. Quaker Voice has urged the legislators to pass these bills out of committee. We look forward to seeing the results of the committees’ executive sessions this Friday, February 10.