Biden Administration Pushes for Right-to-Repair Law

Biden Administration Pushes for Right-to-Repair Law – President Joe Biden is advocating for federal laws that aim to broaden the rights of U.S. consumers to repair their own electronic devices. The White House anticipates that this initiative will lead to yearly savings of $400 for the average American family and a reduction in the country’s substantial electronic waste production. 

Advocates assert that the legislation sought by Biden will have extensive global repercussions affecting supply chains, consumers, and workers. Notably, Apple recently expressed its endorsement of Biden’s efforts. At a White House event on the issue, a senior official from the California-based company called for “strong national right-to-repair legislation” and pledged to honor, nationwide, a new California law on the matter.

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Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council, this week laid out the White House’s view, which is that by not providing access to parts, diagrams and tools, companies are imposing “unfair anti-competitive restrictions.” “For everything from smartphones to wheelchairs to cars to farm equipment, too often manufacturers make it difficult to access spare parts, manuals and tools necessary to make fixes,” she said this week.

“Consumers are compelled to go back to the dealer and pay the dealer’s price or to discard and replace the device entirely. This not only costs consumers money, but it prevents independent repair shops from competing for the business and creates unnecessary waste by shortening the life span of devices.” According to Gay Gordon-Byrne, the Executive Director of the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, American advocacy organizations have been advocating for state-level right-to-repair safeguards for a minimum of ten years.

And while her group welcomes Biden’s support for federal legislation and Apple’s support, “it doesn’t mean quite as much as it appears,” she said. “Apple got behind this bill so that they didn’t have a stronger bill that would have been more uncomfortable for them and would have made more significant progress with right-to-repair. So they got behind this to avoid worse, in their view,” she said.

“So, it will help. I think the impact that it’s going to have obviously will be worldwide, because these manufacturers operate around the world.” It might seem, advocates say, that this is a no-brainer for consumers. “Who doesn’t want the right to repair?” asked the nonprofit Public Interest Research Groups. “Companies worth over $10 trillion.” However, critics contend that such laws could encroach on copyright protections and result in increased consumer costs, reduced product quality, and stifled innovation.

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“Unnecessary government intervention in a thriving market should be avoided,” the Competitive Enterprise Institute wrote in a policy paper on the issue earlier this year. Yet, Gordon-Byrne asserted that in the absence of such laws, companies focused on maximizing profits would lack motivation to ensure their customers can obtain the necessary parts and information to repair their own belongings. “Left to their own devices, the manufacturers will simply stop selling parts, tools. diagrams. They’ll just stop,” she said. 

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“Basically, they can just do less and make it impossible for you to repair your product.” “So, we have to have more of an active approach towards requiring the provision of repair materials. Because if they stop, they stop, and then nobody can fix anything.” It’s not clear when any legislation could be debated by Congress, which only this week installed a House speaker after several chaotic, leaderless weeks.

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