The right to repair movement continues to gain traction internationally as local, state, federal, and supernational bodies further move to support broader consumer access to repairs with both carrot and stick. In Europe, the Data Act proposed by the European Commission on February 23 specifically characterizes the access to user-generated data required for repair or maintenance as reinforcing the “right to use and dispose of lawfully acquired possessions.” Meanwhile in the wake of a local program in which the city of Vienna directly subsidized the costs of repairing rather than replacing household items and furniture, a national repair subsidy specifically targeting electronic waste is expected to take effect in Austria this month. Stateside, a local repair subsidy following the Vienna model has recently been introduced in Portland, OR, while, as previously reported, more than half of states had pending legislation addressing the right to repair in 2021.
The focus of the proposed legislation varies from state to state, reflecting local interest and need. Nebraska’s bill, for example, targets agricultural equipment, while California, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, introduced a bill addressing the repair of medical devices. An increasing number of states, including Hawaii to Washington and Connecticut, are now focusing on personal electronic devices, and have proposed legislation requiring manufacturers to make the documentation, tools, and parts necessary to repair their devices available to consumers.
Large manufacturers are taking note and responding to this growing public and regulatory interest. In the last two weeks, both Samsung and Google have announced that they are voluntarily implementing programs that provide their customers with greater access to the materials necessary to repair their mobile phones. On March 31, Samsung announced that:
Galaxy device owners will be able to take product repair into their own hands for Samsung’s most popular models, the Galaxy S20 and S21 family of products, and the Galaxy Tab S7+ beginning this summer. Samsung consumers will get access to genuine device parts, repair tools, and intuitive, visual, step-by-step repair guides.
On April 8, Google, in turn, announced that:
Starting later this year, genuine Pixel spare parts will be available for purchase at ifixit.com for Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro, as well as future Pixel models, in the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and EU countries where Pixel is available.
Google elaborated that “[t]he full range of spare parts for common Pixel phone repairs,” including “batteries, replacement displays, cameras and more,” and “tools like screwdriver bits and spudgers” would be available. However, unlike Samsung, Google does not specifically address the provision of guides or directions to consumers, noting that their intended audience is “independent repair professionals and skilled consumers with the relevant technical experience” necessary to make the repairs.
As the various pending bills are discussed, amended, and voted upon, we expect to continue to see more manufacturers announcing that they will voluntarily comply with the proposed legislation and provide consumers with some degree of access to the parts, information, and tools necessary to repair their equipment. Given the ubiquity of personal electronics and the increasing number of states targeting this technology in particular, we particularly expect to see manufacturers of phones, computers, and other personal devices at the forefront in implementing such programs.