Small but meaningful progress towards a federal Right to Repair rule

The Right to Repair movement has introduced dozens of state-level laws that would force companies to support independent repairs by making manuals, parts and diagnostic codes available, and by ending the illegal practice of voiding warranties for customers who use independent repair services, but these bills keep getting killed by overwhelming shows of lobbying force from members of the highly concentrated manufacturing sector, particularly Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, warned investors in January that the number one threat to Iphone sales is that customers are choosing to repair, rather than replace, their mobile devices.

Last week, the FTC held a workshop on how a national Right to Repair regime could function, under the banner of Nixing the Fix; though most of the material presented at the workshop will be familiar to anyone who's followed the debate at the state level, the fact that the hearing happened at all is a hopeful sign, the first step on a long journey to a nationwide Right to Repair rule.

Wiens of iFixit and US PIRG’s Proctor spoke in favor of fewer restrictions imposed by manufacturers when it comes to product repairs, as well as increased education for consumers and repair shops. Manufacturers have access to specific instructions and specialized tools, the argument goes, making it difficult or nearly impossible for consumers and repair shops to fix the products they own.

Jennifer Larson, the CEO of the Minnesota-based IT hardware reseller Vibrant Technologies, said at the workshop that she’s “lost millions in revenue—I can’t even quantify over twenty years how much I’ve lost,” due to repair barriers that prove to be too costly and time-consuming for the clients she sells servers to. She hears from angry clients who are upset they have to buy brand-new machines, after unsuccessfully attempting to update firmware, and can’t sell equipment back to her. “The business has changed from whole servers to having to part them down, so you have chassis in landfills,” she said.

Could Feds Force Companies to Support Your Right to Repair? [Lauren Goode/Wired]