Right to Repair roars out of the gate in 2019

By Nathan Proctor

From Kaboompics.com via Creative Commons 0

Many companies intentionally make it harder for us to repair our stuff, which means more waste and more cost for consumers. One stunning example: Americans toss 416,000 cell phones each day, many of which they should be able to repair.

We could be fixing our phones, tablets, appliances and tractors, but the companies that make modern electronics don’t share the parts and service information we need to fix them. Right to Repair reforms would solve that problem.

Last year, U.S. PIRG helped to support Right to Repair efforts across the country; by the end of 2018, 18 state legislatures were debating active bills. These efforts were followed up by a major win in the U.S. copyright office, which helped debunk industry claims that repairs violate copyright laws. (You can read more about this decision in the Washington Post, which also includes our response to this landmark ruling.) It looks like we’ll see progress in 2019 on these critical efforts, with 16 bills already filed just one month in and more bills on the way.

UN releases new research showing electronic waste is expanding rapidly

“E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world,” according to a new United Nations report unveiled at the World Economic Forum, which highlights how urgent the problem of disposable electronics is becoming.

Chart from “A New Circular Vision for Electronics,” From PACE and the World Economic Forum

As I told VICE News’ Motherboard, in its coverage of this important report:

“The obvious conclusion [is] that our relationship with consumer electronics is out of whack,” Proctor said. “Repair is a critical part of fixing our relationship with these products, and is more efficient than recycling. People must be empowered to repair their own stuff. We have way too much waste in the world to only have the companies that manufacture products repair them. This has always been how devices were maintained until quite recently.”

So far in 2019, 16 states have active repair bills; more are in the works

We should be able to fix our stuff. It’s common sense. So, legislators across the country are taking that message and filing bills.

Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia have all filled some sort of Right to Repair bill, and many more state bills are in the works. Our staff across the country are working with legislators to help with legislative language, and line up supporters. We expect bills to also be filed at least four other states, and likely more.

Three states have hearings this week

I will be testifying in New Hampshire on Tuesday, and other staff will be testifying in Washington and South Dakota this week as well. Already, legislators have shared the barrage of industry opposition letters they are receiving. That’s a reminder that as m the industry is digging in to protect repair monopolies.

For regular updates on these hearings, follow me on twitter at @nProctor. The Washington state hearing will also be broadcast online at https://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2019021060.

National town hall video chat attracts thousands

Our close partner, the national Right to Repair leaders iFixit.com, hosted a video chat town hall meeting including us last week. It was the first of a regularly occurring community update and Q&A. The goal of these national video chats is to train and engage the large online following of Right to Repair and help people become more effective advocates.

Check out the event, which we hope to hold every two weeks for the rest of the winter and spring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-zU8f_olwU.

Organizing coalitions and regular meetings across the country

Behind the scenes, we are busy growing our team of advocates, convening groups state-by-state, and training supporters all over the country. We are holding regular coalition phone calls in at least eight states now, and plan to increase that number in the coming weeks.

Online and in person, we can see the numbers and enthusiasm grow for the Right to Repair movement. If you’d like to join in, contact us/check us out at https://uspirg.org/feature/usp/right-repair.