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Consumer, environmental, repair advocates cheer Rep. Morelle’s new bill to help Americans fix modern products
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Joe Morelle (NY) introduced the Digital Fair Repair Act in the House of Representatives Thursday. The bill would require manufacturers of digital products from tablets to tractors to provide access to parts and service materials for consumers and independent repair people. While state lawmakers have introduced similar measures across the country, this is the first time a Congressperson has presented a broad Right to Repair bill to Congress.
"Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director. “It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. It helps farmers keep equipment in the field and out of the dealership. No matter how many lobbyists Apple, Microsoft, John Deere and other big companies hire to put obstacles in the way of us fixing our stuff, Right to Repair keeps pushing ahead, thanks to champions such as Rep. Morelle."
The bill will likely face significant opposition. According to our analysis, companies that contribute to lobbying efforts against Right to Repair are cumulatively worth about $10.7 trillion. But the “David vs. Goliath” nature of this campaign is part of why so many Americans are drawn to this issue.
“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Rep. Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy they deserve.”
The bill comes on the heels of a landmark report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which investigated the topic, found that repair restrictions clearly are harming consumers, and concluded, “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions.”
So far in 2021, a record number of states have considered Right to Repair legislation. The campaign achieved a milestone last week when the New York Senate passed a broad Right to Repair measure. Though the state Assembly declined to follow suit, advocates’ efforts are making progress.
"Every year I've worked on Right to Repair, it's gotten bigger, as more and more people want to see independent repair protected. From just a few states, to 27 states so far this year,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. “We've seen progress in the E.U. and Australia, and now Congress is taking it up. Rep. Joe Morelle has been a champion for much of that journey, sponsoring legislation while in the state house in Albany, starting in 2015. Everywhere you go, people just want to be able to choose for themselves how to fix their stuff. You'd think manufacturers would wise up."
The news comes on the heels of the announcement that a leading antitrust expert, Columbia University Law Professor Lina Khan, will now chair the FTC. Khan has previously opposed how big tech companies undermine competition.
“Big tech companies shouldn't be able to dictate how we use the things we own or keep us from fixing our stuff,” said Kerry Sheehan, U.S. policy lead for iFixit. “We applaud Representative Joe Morelle for taking the fight for Right to Repair to Congress and for standing up for consumers, farmers, and independent repair shops nationwide."
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