‘Right to Repair’ Bill Would Give Washington State Consumers Control Over Electronics Repair
The Washington State Legislature is considering a consumer protection bill to make it easier to repair personal electronics.
HB 1810 sets a number of requirements for manufacturers of electronic devices for devices such as smartphones, laptops, e-readers and tablets in order to provide consumers with resources that enable a more transparent repair process and accessible.
The legislation was drafted in response to consumer frustration that electronics manufacturers generally control access to the documents, parts and tools needed to repair their products.
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One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Mia Gregerson (Democrat, 33rd District) called the bill “obvious” in light of the state’s need for more frequent use of personal devices to facilitate distance learning in schools closed by COVID surges. Gregerson noted that personal electronics repair shops aren’t as available in remote areas of the state, a problem the bill attempts to address.
“For every day these devices are no longer in the hands of our children, they miss a day of learning,” Gregerson said during a January 13 committee hearing.
Among the list of proposed new requirements are the following:
Original manufacturers must make available to independent repairers any documentation, parts and tools that the original manufacturer makes available to its authorized repairers, on fair and reasonable terms.
Original manufacturers shall make available to owners all documentation, parts and tools, except when diagnosing, servicing or repairing such products presents a reasonably foreseeable risk of property damage or personal injury, on fair and reasonable terms. .
Genuine manufacturer equipment or parts sold or used for the purpose of providing safety-related functions cannot exclude diagnostic, service, and repair information necessary to reset an electronic safety-related function information provided to owners and independent repair centers.
One of the potential problems with the bill raised during the committee hearing last week was its interaction with copyright protection. The bill says in a provision that manufacturers are not required to disclose “trade secrets,” although other forms of intellectual property are not protected by the bill as written.
“Electronic devices” are defined as those containing a microprocessor, sold in the United States. The bill excludes car engines, medical devices, and stationary and off-road engines.
The bill provides alternatives to the requirements: namely, it allows manufacturers to “instead provide a training program and allow any approved Washington company to become certified as a certified repair facility by the manufacturer through an open and fair certification process”.