For starters, what is the “right to repair”?
We’ve all likely tried to repair products that we own, only to realize it’s prohibitively expensive or outright impossible. In legal terms, as consumers in the United States we are technically allowed to repair the products we purchase — but actually doing so is an entirely different ball game. Manufacturers are finding more and more ways to throw their weight around to deny people the materials, information, or parts they need to repair their stuff.1
It is just another way companies are tilting the playing field against the average American. By making products more expensive to repair, or forcing us to treat devices as disposable, we have to replace products like our phones more often and buy their latest device whether we want to or not.2
Our bank accounts aren’t the only thing suffering. When products are too expensive or impossible to repair, we are forced to throw these out and buy new ones. This contributes to a huge global e-waste problem that places unnecessary additional stress on the environment.3,4
But wait, it gets even worse! During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of broad right to repair laws put actual lives on the line. Under current legislation, manufacturers have made it extremely difficult for hospitals to fix broken medical equipment — including ventilators — on their own. According to Nader Hammoud of the California Medical Instrumentation Association, with some broken lifesaving equipment, “if you don’t get that device up and running in an hour or two hours, that patient will die.” Hospital repair technicians work on the frontline to make sure lifesaving equipment is functioning properly, but without the right to repair, device manufacturers continue to block them from accessing the repair materials they need to keep patients alive.5
For all these reasons and more, the Right to Repair movement is generating a push to create new laws, and amend existing ones, that practically enable third-parties and users to fix what they buy.6 And it’s popular to boot.
Just this year, a New York right to repair bill made it farther in a legislative body than any other broad right to repair bill before it. Nearly half of states have also put forward their own right to repair laws, some focused on the medical or agricultural sectors, while others are broad in scope.7,8 It’s gaining traction federally, too. On June 17, Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY) introduced a broad right to repair bill in the House.9 And in July, President Biden signed an Executive Order that, among other things, gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the green light to champion our right to repair.10
Lobbyists for manufacturers have enormous power, and there’s no guarantee any of these popular bills will pass into law. But if enough of us speak out about and demand a broad right to repair, we can finally win this battle — and luckily, the White House and FTC have never been more on-side. NOW is the time to act! Sign the petition: Enshrine our Right to Repair in federal law NOW!