The right to repair movement is about to get a much needed boost. The Massachusetts state legislature plans to host a public hearing regarding their “Digital Right to Repair” bills. Many anticipate that this will be the largest hearing in support of this kind of legislation.
Many have argued that the policies of large tech companies have hurt consumers and small businesses. The proposed legislation would “establish fair and reasonable terms for providing diagnostic, service or repair information and services for digital electronic products.” Manufacturers would also be prohibited from installing software on a device that would prevent it from being repaired by a third-party. The pair of bills would ultimately allow consumers to choose where to repair their device.
The bills have enjoyed wide support in the Massachusetts state legislature. The House of Representatives and the Senate have both approved the same bills. They are also co-sponsored by 76 representatives in the House and 27 representatives in the Senate.
The hearing will be held on Monday, October 21st from 1pm to 4pm EST. It will be hosted in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House on Beacon Hill. The auditorium can hold up to 600 people, which would make this largest hearing on a right to repair bill in the United States. The hearing will be attended by legislatures, members of the public, and lobbyists that represent manufacturing companies. The Eventbrite listing for the event states, “Company lobbyists representing the manufacturers will be there in spades, so if we want lawmakers to side with the public, we need to show up.”
These right to repair bills could potentially have an immense impact on national legislation and application. Massachusetts also passed an automobile right to repair law in 2014; the auto industry decided to honor and apply this law nationwide. Although proponents have been fighting for federal legislation for years, it may not be necessary if the tech industry follows the example of the auto industry.
A handful of companies have begun to listen to the concerns of their consumers -- or at least feel pressure from potential legislation. Apple recently promised to expand the availability of their genuine replacement hardware and supporting tools to a greater number of independent shops. Although these shops will need to apply to gain access to these tools, it is a step in the right direction.
Apple’s policy change was rather unexpected. The company is notorious for fighting independent shops and third-party manufacturers. This past summer, Apple decided to sue the owner of PCKompaniet over components that he purchased to replace in iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S smartphones. It will be interesting to see whether the Massachusetts legislation will pass and if other tech companies will follow Apple’s example.