‘Right to repair’ bill would give Washington consumers control over electronics repair

Jan 20, 2022, 3:18 PM | Updated: Jan 21, 2022, 10:38 am
(photo via Flickr)
(photo via Flickr)

Washington state’s Legislature is considering a consumer protection bill intended to make it easier to repair personal electronics.

HB 1810 sets a number of requirements on electronics manufacturers for devices such as smartphones, laptop computers, electronic reading devices and tablets to make available consumer resources that enable a more transparent and accessible repair process.

The legislation was drafted in response to frustration from consumers that electronics manufacturers generally control access to documents, parts, and tools necessary to repair their products.

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One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Mia Gregerson (Democrat, 33rd District) called the bill “obvious’” in light of the state’s need to more frequently use personal devices to facilitate remote instruction in schools closed by COVID surges. Gregerson made the point that personal electronic repair shops are not as available in remote areas of the state, a problem the bill attempts to remedy.

“For every day those devices are out of the hands of our children, they’re missing a day of learning,” Gregerson said in a committee hearing on Jan. 13.

Among the list of proposed new requirements are the following:

  • Original manufacturers must make available to independent repair providers any documentation, parts, and tools that the original manufacturer makes available to its authorized repair providers, upon fair and reasonable terms.
  • Original manufacturers must make available for purchase by owners any documentation, parts, and tools, except where the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of such products presents a reasonably foreseeable risk of property damage or personal injury, upon fair and reasonable terms.
  • Original manufacturer equipment or parts sold or used for the purpose of providing security-related functions may not exclude diagnostic, service, and repair information necessary to reset a security-related electronic function from information provided to owners and independent repair facilities.

One of the potential problems with the bill raised in a committee hearing last week was its interaction with copyright protection. The bill stipulates in a provision that manufacturers are not required to divulge “trade secrets,” although other forms of intellectual property are not protected by the bill as drafted.

“Electronic devices” are defined as those which contain a microprocessor, sold in the United States. The bill excludes car engines, medical devices, and stationary and non-road engines.

The bill provisions for alternatives to the requirements: Namely, it allows for manufacturers to “instead provide a training program and allow any licensed Washington business to obtain certification as a manufacturer certified repair facility in an open and fair certification process.”

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‘Right to repair’ bill would give Washington consumers control over electronics repair