Tech giants are gearing up to fight 'right to repair' bills

Fair repair laws mean tech manufacturers must sell repair equipment and instructions to independent companies and customers.

Tech giant Apple is gearing up for a legal fight in Nebraska over so-called "right to repair" legislation, which has also been proposed in seven other states, including Minnesota.

Fair repair laws would require electronics companies to sell repair parts directly to consumers and independent repair shops, as well as making diagnostic and service manuals available to the public, according to The Repair Association, a group that's pushing for these changes.

This would bring an end to a monopoly where manufacturers either provide repairs themselves, or have control over which companies are authorized to do repairs, iFix it, another right to repair advocacy group, says. Apple, for example, doesn't authorize third-party companies to repair its iPhones or tablets.

This is the third year fair repair legislation has been introduced on the state level, iFix it says. But every time, Apple and other electronics companies swoop in to put an end to it. And it looks like that could be the case this year, too.

Motherboard reports Apple and AT&T are among the companies that plan to argue against the right to repair bill in Nebraska at a hearing on March 9. At least one of the companies plans to argue customers repairing their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire, the website adds.

Of course, there are plenty of independent cellphone repair companies out there, but Motherboard says many of these "exist in limbo," relying on supplies from Chinese grey markets that include salvaged parts from recycled devices to carry out their services.

What's going on in Minnesota?

There are bipartisan fair repair bills currently going through the Minnesota Legislature, with one having been proposed in the Senate last month and the same bill introduced in the House last week.

The law would require manufacturers to make repair information and diagnostics available to independent repair firms, and enable customers to buy repair parts "on fair and reasonable terms."

It includes safeguards so manufacturers don't have to share trade secrets.

The implications of this won't just be confined to cellphones, but also household appliances, smart home devices, cameras, tractors and anything else with software.

The Senate bill in Minnesota was authored by Republican Sen. David Osmek and DFLer John. Marty, while the House bill was authored by several lawmakers including the GOP's Rep. Bob Vogel and the DFL's Rep. Paul Thissen.

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