I’m the executive director of Repair.org – the so-called “self-appointed consumer advocate groups” referenced by Brian Albrecht in a recent MinnPost Community Voices commentary. We are proud to stand fully and clearly on the side of equipment owners to restore options to repair their purchases or hire someone they trust to help.
Under copyright and patent law, repairs are legal. Being able to fix ones things and keep them in use is a major reason people buy things and not just rent them. Without repair options – we lose key values of our purchases. We cannot resell broken equipment. We cannot pledge that equipment as collateral because it cannot be resold. Things that can’t be fixed are doomed to an early death by marketing policies, not the technology itself.
We believe that competition is good for society. Innovation is unleashed by competition. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are not harmed when their customers continue to use their purchases – it’s a vote of confidence that the product is good. Minnesota House File 1337/Senate File 1598 has the intended consequence of restoring competition to the business of repair. That’s all. There are no design mandates, no formatting or content requirements. Just for OEMs to sell the same repair materials they provide to their “dealerships” on equal terms to their customers and independent businesses. Under anti-trust law – OEMs are not entitled to require they alone perform repairs as a form of illegal “tying” agreement.
Mr. Albrecht appears to promote monopolization as an economic benefit when most of society does not agree. Consumers broadly support their right to repair whenever asked – and the results hover at about 77% pro, 20% unsure, and only 3% against. Legislators are alert to their constituent requests for help and are filing bills to expand access to repair through legislation at historic rates. More than half the states in the U.S. are considering some form of Right to Repair (R2R) legislation with sponsors in all parties.
The allegations made by Mr. Albrecht about consumer safety, data security, data privacy and repair quality were the subject of a two-year study by the non-partisan Federal Trade Commission (FTC) starting during the Trump Administration. The resulting unanimous report to Congress is careful to point out that manufacturers made claims about consumer harm lacked evidence. Their conclusion is that consumers are harmed by lack of competition for repair and that the FTC will help state legislators design and pass enabling legislation.
Minnesota is at the vanguard of R2R legislation and will help lead the nation in access to competition for repair services. We urge readers to support HF1337/SF1598.
Gay Gordon-Byrne is the executive director of the Repair Association (repair.org).