Gadget industry tosses a wrench into ‘right to repair’ efforts


Protect Your Access to the Internet

by Elaine S. Povich

cracked cellphone screen
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The “right to repair” movement is having a moment, but roadblocks remain.

After Colorado and New York passed new laws last year, legislators in at least 17 states introduced bills this year that would compel manufacturers to provide information and parts for do-it-yourselfers or independent shops to fix devices.

But the tech industry, despite making some concessions, has maintained its furious opposition to the measures, making it difficult for tinkerers and small businesses to get instructions and components.

President Joe Biden gave the movement a nudge in July 2021 with an executive order encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to limit manufacturers’ ability to restrict independent repairs. The FTC said it would focus enforcement on repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws or violate the agency’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive practices. Congress also has been considering more comprehensive bills to extend the right to repair nationwide.

And the industry has been taking some limited steps toward allowing more self-repairs.

Apple recently added more desktop Macs to the devices covered by its self-service repair program, for example, while Samsung did the same with certain phones and laptops.

And the John Deere company, which has long been criticized by farmers trying to fix computer-related problems on their own equipment, in January signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines how the company will make some parts and manuals available.

But given the resistance from industry on broader actions and a last-minute effort last year that weakened the New York law, repair advocates are skeptical that new state laws will make much of a difference. They say manufacturers are trying to open loopholes that would prevent owners and smaller repairers from doing simple fixes, such…