What do you do if you break the screen on your cell phone but the phone still works, or if your computer starts working intermittently, or when one key or button gets stuck?
If you’re like most of us, you try turning the device on and off hoping it will repair itself. When that doesn’t work, you probably mutter a few obscenities, check your bank balance, and head off to the electronic store to either have the device repaired or to shop for a replacement. Either way, you’re likely to be out some bucks.
And that’s exactly the way digital electronics manufacturers like it. They know that even if people have the skills to make the repairs, these companies maintain monopolistic control over the parts and specialized tools needed to make repairs.
Consumers have no choice but to return to the companies or their designated repair shops for costly repairs or replacements.
The result, as it often is with monopolies, is high or inflated repair costs, poor consumer service or limited access to repair shops.
This control deprives private repair businesses of the opportunity to make money repairing these products and it prevents the electronically savvy among us of the opportunity to fix the damaged devices ourselves and save some money.
It also results in more electronic waste being unnecessarily discarded. Americans reportedly throw out about 416,000 cell phones every day. Electronic components in these items can contribute to environmental contamination from heavy metals and plastic, and prevent scarce materials used in the devices from being reused and recycled.
That situation will change if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs the Digital Fair Repair Act when it comes to her desk.
The legislation (A7006B/S4104A), which passed both houses of the Legislature nearly unanimously earlier this year, would require manufacturers to make non-trade-secret diagnostic and repair information available for sale to third-party repairers.
It will open up the repair market for competition, allowing new entrepreneurial repair businesses to open; help drive down prices for individual consumers, businesses and the government; and help reduce electronic waste by keeping it out of our landfills.
Manufacturers complain that the bill will could result in harm to residents’ privacy and safety by providing sensitive security information and equipment to untrained or uncertified individuals, according to a report in Consumer Reports.
But the legislation addresses those concerns in part with strict definitions for the types of tools and information that must be released to the public and clear limits on what type of equipment is eligible for repair.
This legislation is a long-fought victory for consumers, free enterprise and the environment.
The governor should sign it.
Categories: Editorial, Opinion