Small businesses are the lifeblood of our national economy. Yet 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. Now is the time to level the playing field and enact federal legislation that will put power back in the hands of consumers — which is why I’m so proud to have introduced the Fair Repair Act.
The concept behind this legislation is as old as it is simple: if you own something, you should own all of it, including the right to repair it.
My bill, H.R. 4006, will guarantee consumers and small businesses that right by requiring manufacturers to make diagnostic repair information, parts, and tools readily available rather than forcing individuals to go to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) when repairs are necessary. From cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, this commonsense legislation will make technology repairs more accessible and affordable across the board.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that access to the internet is a necessity, yet too many Americans are left with nowhere to turn when their smart devices break, leaving them with the difficult decision between sending it to the manufacturer for a costly, time-consuming repair or replacing the item all together. This disproportionately impacts underserved communities, which are more likely to be smartphone-dependent without broadband at home, exacerbating the digital divide and the inequities that continue to exist in our society. With an increasing need for families to work and learn from home, having the autonomy to repair your technology on your own time without the barriers erected by OEMs is more important than ever.
But this issue goes beyond just the convenience of smartphones and computers. For America’s farmers, it is essential to their livelihoods. If their tractor breaks during harvest, they could miss their entire crop yield while waiting for the equipment to be shipped out, evaluated, repaired by a manufacturer, and shipped back — even for a small repair. Farmers now find themselves in an untenable position trying to remain productive, often resorting to abandoning technological advancements that could make their work more efficient and buying older models with less risk of complex repairs. The ability to repair their own equipment would give them back the independence they deserve.
The right to repair is also good for the environment. As the climate crisis continues to worsen, we need to look for new opportunities to reduce waste and extend the lifecycle of goods. Products that become obsolete in a matter of years because consumers throw them away instead of fixing them are antithetical to the sustainable economy we’re trying to build.
In a recent report to Congress called Nixing the Fix, the Federal Trade Commission stated that there was simply no good reason for manufacturers to restrict the right to repair from consumers. “Although manufacturers have offered numerous explanations for their repair restrictions, the majority are not supported by the record,” the report concludes.
I couldn’t agree more — and that’s why it’s time to enact the Fair Repair Act.
As we work our way towards economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19, we need to give consumers and small businesses a boost, not tie their hands. With President Biden’s support, I’m hopeful that this important legislation will be taken up by my colleagues in Congress as we work to strengthen our economy and empower everyday Americans.