Passing right-to-repair laws is “a huge uphill battle”


About half of U.S. states are considering right-to-repair bills. They would require manufacturers to publish manuals so that anyone can make repairs on electronics and appliances — everything from iPhones to tractors to ventilators. Some of the bills focus on just one of those categories. In Arkansas, it’s farm equipment; in Oregon, it’s consumer electronic; in California, it’s medical equipment.

And in France, a new law just went into effect requiring makers of some gadgets to put a “repairability” score on the label. I spoke with Kyle Wiens, CEO of repair site iFixit. He said there may be momentum, but there’s also a lot of resistance. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

A photo of Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, a company that creates repair guides for electronics and sells replacement computer parts.
Kyle Wiens (Photo courtesy of iFixit)

Kyle Wiens: This is a huge uphill battle. There is $7.5 trillion in market cap registered to lobby against the right-to-repair bills. Apple really doesn’t want this legislation to happen because they’ve got us on a treadmill where we’re buying new iPhones every two years. They like that a lot. If you could swap your own battery, maybe you hang on to your phone for three or four years. We’ve seen concerted lobbying attention. But the thing about this issue is I like to say, all humans are in favor of the right to repair. This is a bipartisan issue. We’ve got very conservative legislators in Nebraska proposing this. We’ve got very local folks in Massachusetts working on it. This is a bipartisan issue. And it’s really a question of the rest of us against a few concentrated monopolies.

Molly Wood: One of the arguments from manufacturers has been that publishing these guides for anyone to see would reveal their trade secrets. Is there any truth to that?

Wiens: There is no truth to that. It’s interesting, France just rolled out a repairability scorecard. Right next to the price at retail, they’ll show how easy or hard it is to fix a product. And Samsung, in order to score better on that, released all their service manuals. I mean, it’s not hurting them in competition, it’s not giving Apple a leg up on Samsung. It is simply the information that you need to fix the thing. It has…

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