Digital Fair Repair Act to offer consumers, independent shops right to repair electronics

Hoping to increase consumer's and independent repair shop's ability to repair electronics similar to the universality of the auto industry, the Digital Fair Repair Act is close to becoming law in Minnesota.

Sponsored by Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood), the idea to give Minnesotans and "mom and pop" shops a fair shake at repairing their electronics before being forced to purchase new again was more than a decade in the making, and one that came from a constituent complaint.

"I first became aware of this about 10 years ago. I had some people in my district reach out to me, one of them a person who repaired computers. His frustration was that it was getting harder to get parts and information from manufacturers to repair stuff locally," Fischer told FOX 9. "I’ve heard so many times about people trying to get their stuff repaired, and there’s only one place that can do it. The last printer I had could have easily been saved from a landfill if I could get it repaired."

The Digital Fair Repair Act would apply to any electronic device sold or in use after Jan. 1, 2024, and would require "original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make tools, parts, and documentation to diagnose, maintain, and repair digital electronic equipment to be made available to independent repair providers and owners." It would also require that tools, parts, and documentation be offered on fair and reasonable terms.

Fischer says that the bill’s benefit will go beyond individual consumers, and also help non-profits that rely on oftentimes-outdated technology to work within its budgets.

"It’s not just the consumer, but I was talking with small businesses and non-profits that use these devices. Some great non-profits are out there doing extremely good work on very limited resources. We want to make sure that when people have a device they own, that they have a right to get it repaired and use it as long as they want," Fischer said.

Limitations within the legislation provide that an OEM isn’t required to release trade secret information to independent repair providers or owners, except as necessary to provide documentation, tools, and parts for repairs. 

It also doesn’t require an OEM to make available parts, tools, and documentation for the purposes of modifying digital electronic equipment.

A company violating the act would be deemed engaging in unlawful practice, and subject to enforcement by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

"We have reasonable limits. If someone bought a device 15 years ago, it's reasonable to believe a manufacturer won’t have a part available anymore. We can't force companies to remake anything," Fischer said.

Manufacturers or distributors of medical devices or digital electronic products or software for use in a medical setting would also be exempt.

In addition the Digital Fair Repair Act, a "Consumer Bill of Rights" is being considered within the Minnesota Legislature, though it is not expected to be passed this year.

According to Fischer, the measure will likely be reconsidered next session.