There is renewed hope for people who want a right to repair their equipment with a new bill that has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The bill would ensure consumers can get their vehicles, electronic devices and farm equipment serviced by independent outlets and owners, according to Reuters.
The goal is to give owners and independent repair shops equal access to the same repair and maintenance tools as dealerships.
The bill, dubbed the “Freedom to Repair Act,” has bi-partisan support, and the aim is to reform copyright laws to make it easier for consumers to get repairs.
The sentiment also has the support of President Joe Biden.
“If you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased,” the President said last month.
This is an especially big deal for farmers, who have far fewer options for repairs than regular car owners. According to one lawmaker, farmers often report that company-authorized repairs were costly and could only be handled by licensed technicians who could take days or weeks to show up – having a serious impact on their harvest cycles.
Manufacturers like John Deere have argued they aren’t actually placing restrictions on farmers, who they say can do the vast majority of repairs themselves. However, farmers say that isn’t even close to the case:
Scott Potmesil, a fourth-generation farmer who raises cattle in Sandhills, Nebraska, recently bought a John Deere tractor that is over 25 years old. He said he purposely went looking for the older device in 2020 because he believed it would be easier to repair than newer models, which can often be fixed only by authorized dealerships.
“I visited with my local mechanic and asked which tractor he could fix, and it was a 1995 one,” Potmesil said. “New equipment is getting so complicated and loaded with sensors. If one of them goes out, you can’t even start your tractor. You need a technician and software to identify the problem.”
The bill would require all tools and equipment, wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data, and access to on-board diagnostic systems needed for repairs be made available to independent shops and owners. Lawmakers say it would effectively end manufacturers’ monopoly on vehicle repair and maintenance.
This is just the latest step in giving consumers a right to repair.
In July, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission voted to make it a priority to address the issue. The Senate bill would create a committee to provide recommendations to the FTC.
We’ve reported on the pushback from manufacturers who do not under any circumstances want people to have the right to repair. That includes a massive lawsuit from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation – consisting of 37 automakers and suppliers. They’re suing the state of Massachusetts - who recently voted in favor of a right to repair law.
Even though the bill has been introduced in the Senate, there’s no guarantee that it will pass onto the House or that they will approve it themselves.