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1/24/2024 Kislak, Shallcross Smith sponsor Right to Repair bills
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Rebecca Kislak and Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith have introduced two bills aimed at defending Rhode Islanders’ right to repair their own belongings.

A House committee is holding a hearing tomorrow on Representative Kislak’s Digital Electronics Right to Repair Act (2024-H 7095), which would require manufacturers to make manuals, parts and tools necessary to repair electronics or electronic components in their products available to owners and independent repair shops.

The Agricultural Equipment Right to Repair Act (2024-H 7229), sponsored by Representative Shallcross Smith, would require the manufacturers of electronics-enabled agricultural equipment to provide owners and independent service providers with information and tools to maintain and repair it.

The bills are aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices that hurt consumers, and would also reduce waste and enable the proliferation of local repair businesses.

“When a manufacturer prohibits or prevents its products from being repaired by anyone else, they are essentially creating a monopoly and working against the public, making it needlessly difficult to keep their products operable. Just as automobile manufacturers aren’t allowed to deny local mechanics the tools, parts and information they need to repair and maintain vehicles, the makers of our phones, computers and appliances should not make it impossible for others to repair their products,” said Representative Kislak (D-Dist. 4, Providence). “I can repair a broken light switch in my house. Why can’t I repair a broken screen or light or battery in my phone, computer or dishwasher? If I own it, why can’t I fix it? It should be just as easy to go to a local shop to repair your phone as it is to bring your car to your local garage, or to do it yourself if you are able.”

Under her legislation, which is scheduled for a hearing before the House Innovation, Internet and Technology Committee tomorrow, original equipment manufacturers of digital electronic equipment sold or used in Rhode Island beginning Jan. 1, 2025, would be required to make documentation, parts and tools required for diagnosis, maintenance or repairs to their products available to individual owners and independent repair facilities on fair and reasonable terms.

The bill would apply to any product whose functions depend in whole or in part on digital electronics embedded in or attached to the product.

California, Colorado, New York and Minnesota have passed similar legislation, and Rhode Island is among 35 other states considering the idea. A similar bill, which is part of President Joe Biden’s consumer-protection effort that also includes addressing “junk fees,” is pending at the federal level.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) and the Repair and the Repair Association have also organized a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to implement rules better protecting consumers’ rights to repair products, requiring, among other things, that consumable components and parts that commonly fail be made available throughout a product’s lifespan. Representative Kislak has signed the petition, and urges Rhode Islanders to do the same before the petition closes Feb. 2.

While some major electronics companies have worked to thwart independent repairers from working on their products, in recent years Apple has backed right to repair laws, including the California law and the federal bill.

Representative Shallcross Smith’s bill is aimed at addressing similar issues in the agricultural equipment industry affecting farmers nationwide. Many tractors and similar machines now rely on computerized engine control units, and their manufacturers have created monopolies on their service and repair by refusing to make manuals or parts available to others.

“At this time, most farmers have to have their tractors towed away to a dealer when they break down, which is costly and time-consuming. It can take several days or weeks for the dealer to fix a tractor — time they need for growing and harvesting their crops,” said Representative Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket). “Farmers should be able to fix their own tractors. The Agricultural Equipment Right to Repair Act restores farmer’s access to the parts, tools, and software necessary to repair their equipment and do their jobs.”

Her bill would work similarly to Representative Kislak’s, requiring that agricultural equipment manufacturers make manuals and parts available to owners and independent repair providers so they can repair the equipment.

Besides protecting consumers, both bills would reduce waste and consumption and strengthen local economies.

According to US PIRG, if more electronics and appliances could be repaired instead of replaced, household spending on electronics and appliances would be reduced by 21.6 percent, saving an average family approximately $382 per year, while also reducing the 6.9 million tons of electronic waste generated by Americans each year.

Additionally, establishing the right to repair would support small business in Rhode Island.

“Right to repair laws would put local tradespeople to work in small, locally owned businesses. In addition to saving consumers money and time and reducing electronic waste, this legislation would keep money circulating in Rhode Island’s economy, rather than sending it to manufacturers to make new products, most likely in another country,” said Representative Shallcross Smith.

Said Representative Kislak, “Enabling and encouraging the repair and longer use of the products we buy has a great deal of public benefit. We would love to see Rhode Island join the growing number of states that embrace the right to repair.”

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923