In the last decade, Massachusetts voters have twice approved “right to repair” ballot measures for vehicles — both times by overwhelming majorities. Those laws were focused on cars and required manufacturers to share their diagnostics data with independent auto-repair shops, giving residents the opportunity to turn to third-party mechanics as opposed to being left with no choice but to go to dealer shops for car repairs. The law effectively strengthens competition for repairs and provides consumers with better deals as a result.
Now, the Massachusetts Legislature is considering another right-to-repair bill, this time for electronics like phones and computers. And just as this editorial board endorsed the right to repair for cars, the same logic should apply to electronics as well: Consumers should not have to turn to big manufacturers like Apple — which often overprice their products, hardware, and repair services — in order to fix their phones. The Legislature should approve the bill.
Opposition to right-to-repair bills often comes from the manufacturers, and it almost always focuses on purported cybersecurity risks and the potential for hacking cars or devices. In a statement to the editorial board, TechNet, an advocacy group that represents companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, said that these kinds of bills create potential for unsafe repairs by forcing “manufacturers to provide unrestricted access to digital keys and proprietary information for thousands of Internet-connected products, including phones, computers, fire alarms, and home security systems.”
But the reality is that opening up access to diagnostics does not pose a serious threat to consumers — at least not any more so than the many cybersecurity risks they already face with their electronic devices. In fact, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, there is “scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions.” By limiting access to proprietary diagnostic software, manufacturers end up monopolizing repairs — potentially violating antitrust laws — and, as the FTC pointed out in its report, push…