It’s been a big a big year for Right to Repair and our quest to give people what they need to fix the electronics in our lives. From all sides -- the strength and breadth of our coalition, the legislative advocacy and the public awareness and frustration -- our work is gaining strength. Here are some of the big highlights:
Right to Repair Legislation in US States Went Viral
Apple jump-started our New Year with “BatteryGate,” when they were caught throttling phone processors in devices with run-down batteries (but not informing customers or allowing others to fix those batteries). Frustrated consumers pressed on their legislators to fight back -- and within a few weeks supporting bills in 18 states. (link https://ifixit.org/blog/11208/batterygate-timeline/.
We made progress in pushing past opposition in several states, passing bills out of committee in Washington, Illinois and Wyoming. Studies were held in New Hampshire and Vermont with both state bodies opting to continue in 2019. The Massachusetts Senate also voted to establish a Study Commission. Apple can take credit for stalling bills just long enough in New York to delay passage, and in California for spiking their hearing. John Deere is bragging openly about successfully stalling bills in agricultural states such as Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Thanks to the strength of our networks, and the powerful stories from affected businesses and individuals, our sponsors weren’t scared off by lobbyists – and those that were re-elected will be back with more passion and support. 2019 is going to be amazing.
U.S. Copyright Office Widely Expands Legal Tinkering for Repair
The USCO handed us a huge victory in October of 2018 by widely exempting repair from limitation under copyright law. You can now confidently tinker with the embedded software in your cell phone, computer, home appliance, internet of things gadget, or any land-based motor vehicle (apologies to boat and aircraft owners – we didn’t ask) Even better – you can hire anyone you want to help. The sole remaining limitation is on hacking into game consoles – an expected outcome.
This October win helped give us another boost in momentum as we gear up for a big 2019.
National Consumer Rights Organizations Throw their Support to Right to Repair
Both U.S. PIRG (and the broader Public Interest Network) and Consumers Reports Advocacy began helping move Right to Repair legislation with official support, staff assignments and media outlets. These alliances have allowed us to directly work on legislation in more states with expert organizational help. It has been transformational and much more coordination is underway.
More major media coverage is likely as a result of these alliances. We’ve already seen more coverage on Radio and TV than ever before building awareness of Right to Repair globally.
Right to Repair went Multi-National
EU adds new regulations requiring spare parts availability.
Coolproducts.eu https://www.coolproducts.eu/ won a critical first step for parts availability in the EU in December of 2018. Major manufacturers in the appliance sector in Germany and Italy fought hard against repair-friendly rules but weren’t able to block everything. Each EU member nation can add to their own rules and we hope that some will expand on repair requirements for their own citizens.
Australia went to court against Apple for blocking repair and won.
Apple was fined by an Australian Court for being anti-competitive stemming from the BatteryGate scandal. While the amount of the fine is trivial to Apple, we are convinced that Apple and others following them are consistently anti-competitive and should be legally constrained from blocking repair.
Italy fines both Apple and Samsung for slowing phones
More fallout from battery-gate, and probably not the last action.
Canada sets up their own Right to Repair effort
Following the documentary on Apple produced by CBC out of Toronto (Link: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1339717187772 ) MPs in Canada have begun their own Right to Repair legislation within the Canadian system. Farmers in western provinces are particularly upset that while our US Copyright Office removed legal threats from repair on our side of the border, those threats remain in Canada.
Exploding E-Waste Adds Municipalities to the Campaign.
Cities and towns are experience a whole new set of challenges related to e-waste – because imbedded batteries themselves are explosive and dangerous to handle.
Right to Repair helps lower these risks. More repair means less waste in the first place. Better yet – under Right to Repair statutes, manufacturers will have to provide the documentation everyone needs to find valuable, broken, and dangerous parts. It is possible that Right to Repair bills filed in 2019 could include additional requirements related to batteries.
Looking Ahead to 2019:
More bills, more hearings, more media attention and more allies will create the climate for a perfect storm to carry at least one bill through in 2019. Once one state goes first – the rest will want to do the same. OEMs will have little choice but to voluntarily comply nationally or become subject to a crazy quilt of different statutes.