Cheaper, easier cell phone repair likely coming to Minnesota

Fixing your cell phone, laptop or any other digital device could get cheaper and easier under a proposed new "Right to Repair" law in Minnesota.

The Digital Fair Repair Act is part of a big commerce bill getting hammered out now in a conference committee. It’s designed to help small repair shops and consumers who’d rather keep their old phones than get new ones.

Cell phone repairs are the heart of Jacob Cohen’s business at his small Ericsson neighborhood A2Z Wireless store.

"I’m a small guy struggling just to survive, you know?" he said.

Cohen had an out-of-production Motorola phone to fix Wednesday.

"It’s not the latest and greatest device," he said.

He says the latest and greatest is what phone and computer manufacturers like Apple and Samsung want everyone to have, so getting replacement parts and proper tools is sometimes tough.

"It’s pretty straightforward," Cohen said. "The major corporations and the big manufacturers are trying to make it difficult for us to repair your devices."

Minnesota legislators are poised to change that.

The Digital Fair Repair Act would force manufacturers to make tools, parts, and documentation available to independent repair shops.

Repair shop owners say that should make it cheaper to keep a phone longer, which would also be environmentally friendly. The industry opposes the proposed law, telling legislators it creates a security risk if more people have access to your devices.

And they say they’ve already expanded the availability of parts and tools through licensing agreements with some repair shops. Finding those stores in big cities usually isn’t hard.

"That’s not the case for a good portion of the population in the country where they’re having to drive hundreds of miles or ship their device somewhere," said Andy Strandquist, an owner at CPR Cell Phone Repair.

So the bill could help rural Minnesotans get their phones and other electronics back in action a lot faster.

If it passes, the law would take effect on January 1. Medical and agricultural devices would be exempt.