Edition 118, March 2022

2022 Should Be a Landmark Year for Right to Repair

By Elizabeth Chamberlain, iFixit

This year’s fight for your right to repair your stuff is on, and we are feeling optimistic.  

Last year, France set the stage for a repair revolution. They introduced a repairability index that requires manufacturers of smartphones, laptops, televisions, washing machines, and lawnmowers to rate how repairable their products are. Those scores are required to appear at the price point, before purchase. This year, France will introduce a repair fund, which gives consumers at least a 10% reduction of the cost of any repair conducted by a certified repairer. This year, the French repairability index will also be expanded to vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, top-loading washing machines, and pressure washers.

European right to repair is taking cues from the French model. The European Commission has promised a right to repair legislative proposal by September 2022, as one of five priorities of the European Green Deal. This proposal should build on the Ecodesign Measures that went into effect in March last year, making replacement parts and manuals available for washing machines, dishwashers, fridges, and displays. We hope to see the Commission expand their attention to consumer electronics.

In Canada, Member of Parliament Bryan May is likely to reintroduce a bill that stalled in committee last year, as right to repair is now part of his party’s platform and May has been appointed to a leadership position. Copyright law in Canada currently prohibits repairs that involve circumventing digital locks called “technological protection measures”—and, unlike in the US, there’s no method of getting exemptions for repair. May’s bill would legalize getting around those locks for the purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair. Last year, Parliament passed it on to the Industry Committee with a unanimous 330-0 vote, which The Repair Association described as “noticeably uncontroversial and above normal partisanship.” That unanimous support should bode well for its reintroduction in 2022.   

The Australian Government is expected to act this year on a December 2021 Productivity Commission report, which found “significant and unnecessary barriers to repair.” The Commission proposed reforms drawn from around the world: developing repairability product labeling like the French system, amending the Copyright Act to allow for repair like the Canadian bill, and requiring repair parts for agricultural machinery, as farmers are demanding in the US.   

In the US, we’re expecting right to repair bills in at least 25 states—bills that will cover everything from iPhones to tractors to wheelchairs, with broad bipartisan support. The US effort kicked off last week with public hearings for right to repair bills in Illinois and Washington State. Last year in the US, right to repair bills got further than ever before, passing one half of the New York state legislature. President Biden issued an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take action against repair restrictions, and the FTC soon after pledged to fight them. At the Washington State hearing last week, Microsoft was neutral—a big step forward, since the company has opposed legislation in their home state in previous years. The Washington bill would require manufacturers to make parts, tools, and repair information available to independent repair shops in January 2023, then to individual consumers in January 2024.  

Any smart manufacturer looking at this momentum should realize that the days of repair monopolies are numbered—and some are starting to listen. Facing a shareholder resolution asking them to provide better access to repair, Apple announced that they would begin providing parts, tools, and documentation for new iPhones starting early this year for US consumers and expanding to other products and countries soon. Staring down a similar shareholder right to repair resolution, Microsoft agreed to study the potential impact of making repair easier (and act on their findings). The same organization behind Apple’s shareholder resolution, Green Century, just filed a repair proposal with Alphabet, Google’s parent company.  

Companies that insist on repair restrictions have “run out of excuses,” according to Nathan Proctor, Senior Campaign Director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “Fixing things when they break is just common sense, and it’s an ecological necessity. We calculated that if Americans used their cell phones one year longer on average, it would have the climate benefits of taking 636,000 cars off the road.”

If you’d like to help, calling or writing your legislators is a great way to make your voice heard. In the US, check out Repair.org. If you’re in the European Union, check out repair.eu. In Australia, the Griffith University Law Futures hosts Repair Australia. If you’re in Canada, keep your eye on CanRepair. We’ll do our part to keep you updated on the good fight, too.

We’re also asking you to share your repair genius this week. Take iFixit’s pledge to fix more stuff and post a photo of your most recent repair on social media for a chance to win $100 to the iFixit store. Don’t forget to use #imagenius and @ifixit. Last day to enter is January 31st, 2022.

Elizabeth Chamberlain