Repair Rights Bill Idling In Senate Committee
Advocates for more flexibility in electronics repair sounded an alarm on Thursday, cautioning that failure to advance "digital right to repair" legislation could put small shops' business at risk.
Legislation (S 166 / H 341) that would require digital electronics manufacturers to make diagnostic repair tools and information available to product owners and independent repair shops has been before the Senate Ways and Means Committee since February, when it was endorsed and advanced following a review by the Joint Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
Bill supporters say the measure would reduce electronics waste and allow consumers to save money by fixing devices at independent outlets instead of through manufacturers.
Opponents, including those who testified at an October hearing, say specialized parts need to be handled by trained individuals and warn of potential security and piracy risks that could arise from sharing schematic or diagnostic information with third parties.
Calling for action from lawmakers before the July 31 end of formal legislative sessions, proponents held an event outside the State House Thursday to showcase results from a pair of surveys.
MASSPIRG and repair guide website iFixit surveyed 28 Massachusetts repair shops that work with items including smartphones, tablets, laptops, video game consoles, IT equipment and home appliances.
Of the 28, nine said they "frequently" have to turn away potential customers because of restricted access to repair parts, materials, software or information, and 16 said they do so "occasionally."
Twenty-six said it would reduce the number of customers they could serve if the bill does not become law and manufacturers continue restricting access to repair materials. Nine said they might have to lay off staff without such a law, and 13 percent answered with "I might have to close my doors."
"As part of the repair industry, I can see the writing on the wall," iFixit's Dan Jaffe said in a statement. "We either remove repair barriers, guarantee access to repair materials, or we will start to lose our local repair businesses. We already have lost too many."
MASSPIRG also released some results from a survey of 1,009 Massachusetts voters that Beacon Research conducted last year on behalf of the Repair Preservation Group, a nonprofit started by repair shops that advocates for digital right-to-repair policies. That survey was framed around a potential ballot question, which was not pursued.
Fifty-three percent of the respondents surveyed from June 11-22, 2021 said they would be more likely to vote for a state representative candidate "if they publicly supported the Right to Repair Electronics." Thirty-nine percent said it would make no difference, and 3 percent said they'd be either somewhat or much less likely to support that candidate. -- SHNS