Mon. Sep 25th, 2023

In recent years, the “right-to-repair” movement has created a lot of buzz. From online forums to legislative houses, discussions on whether people should be allowed to fix stuff they own—and the broader implications of that—gained momentum.

My goal is not to explain to you what right-to-repair bills are. We have a great piece explaining right-to-repair laws, so head there if you’re after a healthy dose of new knowledge.

Keeping Up With the Repair-dashians

However, one might have difficulties staying up to date with developments on the topic. For starters, the world’s largest electronics market has 50 states, each debating the subject independently. Not to mention the European Union, the UK, Canada, India, and other countries are mulling over their own laws.

Many people don’t care how such a specific matter develops in other countries. But they should: when a major market takes regulatory steps—good or bad ones—into one direction, the chance that others follow it is considerable.

Take what happened with the iPhone following the EU’s decision that all phones should use USB-C for data and charging. In a rare turn of events, Apple shared information on an upcoming product, confirming in October 2022 that its smartphones from 2023 onwards would finally switch from the now-ancient Lightning to the standard every other manufacturer has been adopting for years.

A rare turn of events for the company, by the way, is Apple’s August 2024 decision to support the right-to-repair bill being discussed in California.

Apple has a long history of opposing to user-replaceable parts—it was the first to use soldered memory (and among the first to use soldered storage) on computers. When forced to comply with regulations, the company did its best to make the customers’ lives worse. Apple’s self-service repair program is so expensive and troublesome that The Verge’s editor Sean Hollister went viral by sharing his experience with the service.

But I digress. What’s important here is that we’ve gathered a list of major developments in right-to-repair laws around the world, to make our reader’s lives easier—after all, we’re not Apple. We can’t assure you this will be completely up-to-date all the time, but you can bet we’ll make our best efforts to add new events here as soon as they happen.

Also, keep in mind that the list is in reverse chronological order. Therefore, the topmost items are the most recent ones.

History of Developments on Right-to-Repair Laws

2023, September: As of the time the initial version of this article is being written, 82 bills regarding right-to-repair have been proposed in 33 US states and Puerto Rico. Of those, 47 are still being discussed, 22 have been dismissed, and 3 are already enacted. A complete and up-to-date list can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures’s page

2023, August: Apple states it now supports California’s right-to-repair bill

2023, May: Minnesota gains the most comprehensive right-to-repair law as of the date it was signed. It will take effect starting July 1, 2024

2023, April: Colorado becomes the first US state with a right-to-repair law that specifically covers farming equipment

2023, March: India begins discussions on a legal framework regarding right-to-repair

2023, January: After years of legal battles, John Deere agrees to allow farmers to fix their own tractors. Previously, owners were forced to request technical support from the company

2022: New York becomes the first US state to approve a law on right-to-repair that extensively covers consumer electronics. A similar measure was proposed for inclusion in Missouri’s 2022 ballots but didn’t gather enough signatures by the deadline

2022: The European Commission starts discussions on a unified right-to-repair proposal for member countries. The proposal demands that manufacturers prioritize repairing faulty products instead of fully replacing them

2021: Joe Biden signs an Executive Order that includes directives for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a ruling on right-to-repair. The Commission drafted, discussed, and unanimously approved the ruling in less than two weeks

2021: The UK passes a specific right-to-repair law

2021: France introduces its repairability score system, in which a government body evaluates products on how friendly they are for repairs or upgrades

2020: Framework, a company aiming to build modular computers, is founded. As of September 2023, it has released three laptop models, all of them with interchangeable parts that include from the USB ports and touchpad to the screen and motherboard. Framework’s computers can be fully disassembled using a single Torx T5 screwdriver—that’s included in the box

2020: Following an exponential demand increase for medical equipment during the pandemic, right-to-repair bills—both state and federal ones—start mentioning health devices

2019: The European Parliament passes a (mandatory) law that requires manufacturers to sell replacement parts for at least ten years after a product is announced

2019: US states discussing right-to-repair bills increase to 20

2019: Apple announces a program to sell genuine parts to repair shops. The certification fee was prohibitive for small businesses

2018: Asus, HTC, Hyundai, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony are notified by the US Federal Trade Commission. The companies were gluing “warranty void if broken” seals to their products, a practice that has limitations according to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act from 1975

2017: iPhone users threaten to sue Apple for allegedly slowing down older iPhones. The company later admitted to the practice, with the traditional “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature” argument. According to the manufacturer, the phone speed was throttled to prevent excessive stress on older batteries. A few days later, an iOS update was released, making the slowdown optional

2017: The US Supreme Court decides against Lexmark, ruling that it’s legal for companies to purchase used ink cartridges and refill them for reselling

2017: The European Parliament approves a recommendation for member states to pass laws about right-to-repair. As a recommendation, the decision isn’t mandatory

2015: The UK passes the Consumer Rights Act, which includes initial regulations about right-to-repair

2015: The Digital Right to Repair Coalition pushes for right-to-repair state laws that include electronics in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York

2014: In the US, South Dakota passes the first state bill that mentions electronic devices

2013: The Digital Right to Repair Coalition is created. Among the founding parties are iFixit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Service Industry Association (SIA). The latter two are international organizations defending, respectively, the digital rights of individuals and the interests of aftermarket repair companies

2013: Fairphone is founded. The company specializes in creating sustainable smartphones. Among other features, like using conflict-free minerals and recyclable materials, Fairphone also uses a modular design to provide maximum repairability

2012: The European Union conducts its first study about the repair industry; one of several that would eventually be used as the basis for European right-to-repair laws

2012: Massachusetts becomes the first state to have a right-to-repair law. Mostly regarding automobiles, the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act would be used as the basis of a (voluntary) agreement signed in 2014 by organizations representing car manufacturers

2010: HP loses three class-action lawsuits in the UK, regarding planned obsolescence of ink cartridges

2008: The first MacBook Air is announced. It was the first modern laptop to use soldered memory, and also the first to ship without a removable battery. Storage would follow suit in 2015 with the MacBook (that one that only had a 3.5mm jack and a USB-C port), though Samsung has beaten Apple on this one: the Series 3 Chromebook, launched by the South Korean company in 2012, already had non-upgradable storage

2008: The US Supreme Court decides that carriers can’t prevent customers from unlocking their phones

2007: Apple announces the first iPhone. It was also the first mobile phone to be sold without a removable battery

2006: New Jersey begins discussing a right-to-repair bill. It would eventually become the first of its kind to be approved by a state Assembly, but NJ wouldn’t actually get a law on the matter until 2017

2003: iFixit, the company known for providing disassembly and repair guides, selling repair tool kits that work with most electronics, and also a major right-to-repair advocate, is founded

2001: First federal right-to-repair bill proposed in the US Senate, targeting the automotive industry. The bill didn’t pass, but the discussion around it created the term “right to repair”

Early 2000s: Advocacy groups for the right to repair appear in various countries. In the US, they initially aim at the automotive industry

1998: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) passes. While primarily known for being used as the basis for takedown notices of pirated content, this law also states that copying software for maintenance purposes isn’t a copyright breach

1995: Facing a severe financial crisis, Apple decides to license the Mac OS, then in version 7, to third parties. About 75 manufacturers sold computers running the system

1988: Apple wins a lawsuit against the major Apple II clone manufacturer. It was the first time computer software was considered protected by copyright

1986: A British ruling decides that manufacturing automotive parts for aftermarket repairs wasn’t an infringement of copyright

1981: IBM launches the Personal Computer 5150, usually known as the IBM PC. Like the Apple II, it would gain a range of clones. Microsoft, which developed the Operating System for the IBM PC, licensed the software to other manufacturers, thus giving birth to the modern computer industry

1977: Apple announces its second computer, aptly named Apple II. At least 200 companies created “clones” of the model by reverse-engineering its parts and software

1975: The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, while not forcing manufacturers to offer warranties for products, defines minimum standards to be followed if they choose to do so

1961: The US Supreme Court rules in favor of automobile parts manufacturers, defining that aftermarket components intended for repair don’t infringe the car manufacturer’s intellectual property

1950s: The US Department of Justice sues IBM for not allowing customers to purchase its computers, only lease them

1930s: GM overtakes Ford as the US’s major car manufacturer, in part due to using parts that were harder to repair, in part due to releasing face-lifted models yearly

1920s: Ford creates the concept of “certified service centers” for car repairs

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By John P.

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