Why You Should Care About Right to Repair

Right to Repair bills are cropping up in states across the U.S. While Massachusetts was the only state with a Right to Repair Law on the books for years, 2021 has seen 14 new states file Right to Repair bills. 

There’s a good reason for the increased popularity of legislation protecting consumer’s rights to fix their own devices. The average U.S. family produces 175 pounds of electronic waste each year. At the same time, manufacturers are making it harder and harder for consumers to repair their devices. 

But even if the idea of repairing your smartphone or tablet doesn’t seem important to you, you’ll want to know that it isn’t just electronics that are included in both Right to Repair Laws. As noted by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) report, Nixing the Fix, the auto industry is using similar practices to prevent automobile owners from making their own choices about repairs.

Right to Repair Act and Your Automobile

The gist of Right to Repair laws is to empower consumers in repairing their devices. Restricting access to manuals, parts, and diagnostic tools and software are just a few ways that consumers have been kept from fixing their own devices.

 Automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) use similar tactics to control who can fix your car and what can be used in those repairs. From designing onboard electronics to prevent access to car data to using repair instructions to shut out the use of alternative automotive parts, Right to Repair Laws will push car manufacturers to widen car owner’s repair options.

What is it that the OEMs are doing to make these choices for you? How are they steering you to using the parts and repair locations that they choose? There are a number of strategies they use:

  • Service bulletins: Automakers are issuing repair guides to shops that imply the use of anything other than OEM parts will prevent the car from operating properly and safely.
  • Telematics: Onboard computer chips and data uploads from modern vehicles are only available to dealers and those repair shops that have paid for access.
  • Disparaging alternative parts: Auto manufacturers push false information that implies alternative parts – also known as aftermarket parts – aren’t high quality and will impact a car’s performance, when, in fact, many alternative parts are as good or better than the OEM parts they replace.
  • Abusing patent rights: Vehicle manufacturers are misusing the protection of design patents to push alternative replacement parts out of the market.

What if There Were No Right to Repair Laws?

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a fight between automakers and alternative parts manufacturers, and means nothing to you, the consumer. Without the FTC Nixing the Fix findings and the spread of Right to Repair laws, consumers would be hard hit where it counts – in their wallets.

You see, without alternative solutions to repairs, OEMs could charge far more for their parts because they would be the only game in town. Competition is good for the consumer – but OEMs could be charging 15% to 50% more for their parts if there weren’t another choice.

This has a trickle-down effect on consumers, as well. If parts cost more, so does insurance, since the cost of repairing a car would skyrocket. It’s estimated that insurance repair costs would rise to $3.2 billion. That’s money that the insurance companies will be taking from you and other car owners to protect their profits.

Plus, if the auto manufacturers have their way, it will put millions of jobs in jeopardy. Independent repair shops, alternative parts manufacturers, and qualified mechanics would see the market shrink, with many losing jobs and businesses as a result.

With Right to Repair laws in place, protections for consumer choice would go well beyond saving a few bucks on an oil filter. OEMs might try and convince you that their parts are better and safer, while also doing everything they can to restrict information about your car and mislead you and your mechanic on what is best for your vehicle. Support your state’s Right to Repair laws and keep the car manufacturer’s hands out of your wallet.

Want to know more about how car companies are restricting your right to repair?
The FTC reporting, Nixing the Fix, was presented to Congress in May of 2021. You can read the FTC’s findings here. Be an informed and active consumer. Once you understand the impacts of what the OEMs are doing, contact your state and federal representatives and let them know you want them to protect your right to fix your vehicle, your way.


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