Jesse Jones

Consumers should have ‘Right to Repair,’ says Federal Trade Commission

The Consumer Technology Association says Americans will spend $512 billion this year on consumer tech. But when they break it, it seems like the only place you can get your gadget fixed is with the manufacturer. Lawmakers and the Federal Trade Commission are now fighting to give consumers the opportunity to have their phones and tablets repaired by a company of their choosing.

“A lot of times these companies design their products in a way where it’s impossible to do repairs or upgrade these things,” says Kevin Brasler of Puget Sound Consumers’ Checkbook. “Laptop manufacturers, for example, they make it difficult to open the case. We found one example where the laptop had 50 little screws you had to loosen in order to get the thing open,” Brasler said.

Kevin Brasler thinks consumers should have a right to repair broken goods wherever they choose,  “once I bought something from a company, I should be able to control whether I want to get the repairs done myself, whether I want to try to do them on my own, whether I want to go to an independent shop, and really most important, whether I can get repairs or upgrades done at all.”

Over the past two years Oregon, Minnesota, New York and California enacted ‘Right to Repair Laws.’  But in our state similar legislation died in the legislature this past session, even with the backing of companies like Microsoft. The bipartisan bill-HB 1933-was comprehensive.  it also included the right to repair appliances, farming equipment and electric wheelchairs.

Douglas Farrar, Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Federal Trade Commission says, “The FTC believes that if you’re able to seek out a repair shop or any, product that is a more convenient and lower cost than going to the manufacturer, that that is, in essence, the kind of competition the FTC is designed to protect.

The FTC sites one other major benefit to these new laws – cleaning up the environment, because unrepaired tech turns to waste.

“By enabling, independent contractors and small businesses to help repair products, you’re going to see products lasting a lot longer. And, and getting the full maximum value of their, of their life, prior to being disposed of,” said Douglas Farrar, Federal Trade Commission.

The European Union recently approved a right to repair.  State Representative Mia Gregerson says she plans to reintroduce a version of the ‘Right to Repair’ Bill next year in Washington state.