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Right To Repair Law Considered In Multiple States

If you’ve owned any number of smartphones in your lifetime, you’ve probably experienced a break. Whether the screen cracks, the battery refuses to work, or the SD card becomes incompatible, technical smartphone problems can be a serious pain in the you-know-where.

This isn’t because we don’t know how to fix phones for ourselves. This is because companies like Apple and Samsung make it nearly impossible to access necessary information to make the repair at home. Instead, we are forced to drag our device to the nearest official repair shop or make a claim on our warranty. If we use an independent shop, or attempt to make alterations at home, we could risk voiding our warranty.

Sometimes, life is made easier when our warranty expires. This way, we can take our device to a more affordable gadget repair shop. Experts at these shops are capable of fixing phones, computers, motherboards, and more. Alterations can be made quickly and efficiently, without unnecessary packaging, shipping, and warranty claims.

Thanks to device creators, however, these all-too-useful shops may go out of business.

In 2017, lawmakers in eight different states are considering passing right to repair legislation. While Kansas and Wyoming bills are focused on farm equipment such as tractors, other states like Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, and Tennessee will all focus on consumer electronics such as cell phones, desktop and laptop computers, and more.

Right to repair laws are also known as fair repair laws. They require manufacturers to publish repair manuals and sell parts, diagnostic software, and necessary tools to fix products – no matter how high-tech they appear. The bills make the argument that, if you purchased the device, you should have the right to fix it.

Currently, manufacturers of smartphones and other technological devices are hiding behind copyright laws to keep repair manuals hidden and products private. Without these tools, an independent shop or do-it-yourself owner can’t even begin to assess the problem, let alone identify the source and navigate the repair.

In rural areas, the problem is especially bad. In Nebraska, there is a single Apple store available for cell phone repair. Consumers are forced to drive across the state or make a warranty claim via postal service. It can take days, or even weeks, to get a repair or replacement. At an independent shop, this can be done in a number of hours.

“It’s imperative that you keep equipment running,” state senator Lydia Brasch said during a hearing. “Farmers have been able to do that for generations, but now that little brain – that software component – is stopping the mechanics of it from moving. It’s about ownership rights ... [that’s] what it boils down to. We should all be able to choose where and how we repair our equipment.”

Brasch hopes that all lawmakers will see past lobbyists and push forward this much-needed legislation in 2017. If not, consumers may continue to struggle with repairs and complex warranties for years to come.

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