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Feds ordered to pursue stronger right to repair policies to help consumers

Repair barriers force local shops to turn away customers
Feds ordered to pursue stronger right to repair policies
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 16:38:12-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — When it comes to electronics, appliances, agricultural equipment and cars, manufacturers do their best to make it incredibly difficult for third-party repair companies to make the fix. News5 explains how this is driving up the cost for consumers and why there's also a renewed effort to eliminate these repair restrictions.

If you talk to repair shops right here in the pikes peak region they'll tell you trying to purchase parts and even access repair manuals for some products consumers are bringing into their stores is nearly impossible.
Work has been done for years to try to break down these barriers, but a renewed effort at the federal level is giving right to repair policies new life.

"They've taken the ability to take the batteries out of them. They've sealed them shut tight with glue and they've made it where their parts are very expensive," said Noah Burnham, a technician at O'Grady's Cell Phone Repair and Game Shop. "Like, I'm willing to jump through all of those hoops and I'm willing to do everything I need to make my repairs effective as I can make it, but unfortunately the companies that make the parts don't want to allow that to happen."

Burnham says consumers are shocked to hear they can't get their items like tablets quickly and affordably repaired.

"I have had to turn away pretty much every repair that I've been offered on them because every single time I try to quote someone on a repair price if I try to make it worth my technician's time it's more expensive to repair that tablet than to replace it," he told News5.

These have been shared frustrations by local repair shops across several industries for years. Back in February we heard similar complaints from the auto repair experts at Autosmith.

"Certain brands in particular you will not have as much information released on those, especially early on within the first maybe 3 or 4 years of ownership. It makes it tougher because there is nowhere to get the information because it hasn't been published. It hasn't been released," said Autosmith owner Darren Dodd.

Recently a right to repair bill failed to make it through the committee level when it was presented in front of Colorado lawmakers, but consumer advocates say after an executive order from President Joe Biden calling for the FTC to issue new rules to protect the right to repair, the push for better policies has new life.

"So there could be a chance for another narrower state bill, but if the Federal Trade Commission's policies are broad and they are actually able to enforce rules that already exist we might not have to do anything at the state level," said Allison Conwell of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group.

The inability to repair electronics specifically is becoming an environmental issue as well. Colorado households generate 196,000 tons of electronic waste per year.
It remains to be seen if consumers will see a change and better access to affordable and timely repairs with this new federal direction, but for now...

"Every single device that's made on a proprietary basis they want you to fix it through them or just replace it entirely. They do not what independent repair to be part of the equation whatsoever," said Burnham.

It's believed that better right to repair policies could save families $330 a year by repairing instead of replacing electronics and appliances alone.

Federal investigators are relying on us as consumers to share our experiences to drive better policy. The experts say the best way to do this is through the Federal Trade Commission's website: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

For more information on right to repair policies: https://copirg.org/feature/cop/right-repair