Minnesota lawmaker fights for 'right to repair' electronics

Minnesota is one of a few states taking the lead on a so-called “Right to Repair” bill. The idea is to make it easier for businesses to repair and re-use electronics, like smart phones, instead of consumers junking broken ones.

Electronics Makers Make Repairs Difficult

At iDoctor, an Eden Prairie business that repairs electronics, the demand for services is high and the culprit usually the same: broken glass. Most items brought into iDoctor are from the electronic giant, Apple, which can make repairs a challenge since Apple doesn’t offer repair manuals or sell spare parts.

“It makes it hard repairing new devices, you're learning all over again. You really depend on experience and the larger repair community,” said Garry Schumacher, the owner of iDoctor. However, Schumacher told Fox 9 he has concerns a new law could inflate the prices of parts, and that companies' intellectual property deserves protection.

Leaders at OceanTech, an Eden Prairie business that restores and sells used electronics to large organizations around the country, are concerned that more companies are acting like Apple — not releasing repair manuals, or implementing restrictive software that makes refurbishing difficult. The vice-president told Fox 9 the trend could hurt a business that is dependent on refurbishing electronics. 
“At this time, we're able to repair a lot of the hardware. However, if the manufacturers are able to succeed in not allowing us to do that, there's going to be a lot of organizations that are going to suffer,” said Mike Satter, the vice president of OceanTech. “

“Right to Repair” Bill

In response, State Senator David Osmek (R-Mound) is pushing a so-called "Right to Repair" bill that could require manufacturers to share parts, manuals, or software keys -- making electronics easier to repair and re-use.

“The problem is that some of these smaller, mom and pop operations, and even some of the larger ones like we're at today [OceanTech] are starting to see a trend by the electronics industry. They're starting to become more proprietary, they're taking away an opportunity for a secondary market to be available for pieces of equipment,” said Rep. Osmek.

In addition to hurting small businesses Osmek is concerned about these items ending up in landfills.
“Why should we put all of our equipment into a landfill when we can repurpose it, save people a bunch of money and have these things have a life beyond their existing, first use?” Osmek asked.

The bill has bi-partisan support, and state leaders will meet with top manufacturers next month to discuss a possible compromise.

Criticism of “Right to Repair”

Alexi Madon, a spokesperson at CompTIA, an IT trade group, told Fox 9 the bill was a solution in search of a problem. She also expressed concerns the bill would damage intellectual property. As for worries that too many new electronics end up landfills, she pointed to Minnesota’s e-waste program.