The Right to Repair, and Why Colorado is the First to Make it Law
You've probably heard what sounds like a new phrase quite a lot in recent months, possibly even longer if you run in engineering circles. That phrase is 'the right to repair', and you're likely to hear it much more frequently after Colorado became the first state in the US to pass right-to-repair legislation.
With all this talk about a phrase you may not be familiar with, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. Is this really something that's important enough to write a law about? Well, that really depends on your disposition, but let me try to explain why this could end up being a game-changing, landmark moment for consumers in the long run.
What is the 'right to repair'?
Very basically, the right to repair refers to a consumer's right to, well... repair, the products that they purchase. For example: if you purchase a radio that stops working outside of its warranty, and look for secondhand parts to fix it yourself instead of purchasing a new one; or getting it fixed locally instead of paying for manufacturer repair; that would be you exercising what proponents call your right to repair.
When manufacturers go out of their way to make it difficult, if not impossible to repair your products, whether on your own or through a third party, supporters of the right to repair claim that this is a violation of your right, as a consumer, to do whatever you'd like with the products that you purchase. I don't know about you, but that all seems reasonable to me.
Does this apply to everyone?
Before you get too excited about the law's prospects, it is worth mentioning that this particular legislation, known as the Consumer Right to Repair Agriculture Equipment Act, is specifically in reference to a farmer's ability to repair equipment that they own. Colorado farmers have long complained that equipment manufacturers have effectively made third-party repair impossible, leaving the manufacturers themselves as the only option. This, they say, has led to inflated prices and costly repairs that are making it ridiculously expensive to own and operate farming equipment.
What does this mean for me?
The bill had bipartisan support, passing with a vote of 46-14 in the state Senate on April 11th. While it is very narrow in its scope, in the grand scheme of a consumer's right to repair the things they own, it's also a step in the right direction. More importantly, the fact that it has bipartisan support proves that there is a large contingent of American consumers who believe that they should be able to do whatever they want to do with the products they purchase. If they can ride this wave of momentum, the right to repair may become the law of the land for everything you buy in the not-so-distant future.