Right to Repair: Related

Ongoing developments related to the movement

Following up on EA‘s “Right to Repair” issue of June 2019, there are some interesting, ongoing developments related to the movement.

North Carolina. In North Carolina, the Department of Insurance head issued a statement/memorandum warning against “steering” towards particular auto repair shops. Here is the original document text. Under-the-radar state government tweaks like this show the Right to Repair initiative is more than just a grassroots philosophy as we near 2020.

The North Carolina memo reminded all insurers and agents of the state’s antisteering law and its potential penalties of “licensure action” and up to $2,000 fines. Equally important is that it appears to have been driven by the public.

Steering, in this case, meant “the Department of Insurance had received (some) complaints from some body shops that some insurance companies were telling their customers that if they went to a particular body shop, their claim would be more heavily scrutinized,” North Carolina Department of Insurance assistant director of public affairs Barry Smith said in a statement June 18.

Massachusetts. The state—ahem, Commonwealth—where Right to Repair was born is understandably the state that wants it updated. Massachusetts auto repair shops are asking the law be rewritten or modified to accommodate economic and technological changes that have happened since its passing in 2011. Both the Boston Herald and Wicked Local featured stories on the matter in the past month.

Canada. The Right to Repair movement could be gaining serious steam across our northern border. A mid-June survey showed that 3 out of every 4 Canadians support a federal law that would keep electronics manufacturers flexible with who can repair their parts and where it can be done. CityNews of Vancouver reported on the story June 12.

Microsoft, John Deere updates. Any trend is bound to experience backlash, and in the case of “Right to Repair”, this has generally come from large corporations in either the tech, farming, or medical industries. Most recently, Microsoft petitioned the Federal Trade Commission against repairs of some of its hardware products this spring, arguing that third party repairs could compromise its security systems. Apple has been spotlighted on both sides of the Right to Repair movement, initially as a member of the opposition to services like iFixit, but lately shifting more towards the middle.

Microsoft’s comments were submitted in advance of an FTC-hosted event titled Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions, which is slated for July 16. The Repair Association, iFixit, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and others will be represented at the workshop.

For farming equipment, the discussion centers around John Deere. The farm equipment manufacturer is still facing scrutiny for its repair restrictions. A recent “big issue” brought up on a radio conversation on WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, is that John Deere doesn’t allow a workaround on its diesel engines. One caller presented a plausible maritime scenario where a John Deere diesel engine is being used and fails while at sea. “If you’re out in the middle of the ocean and you’re calling about the boat or something, and your diesel breaks down, a diesel engine is the simplest thing to keep going except John Deere makes is impossible to fix while you’re at sea, and that’s life-threatening,” the caller said. “You could go up on the rocks, you could lose your life.”

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