Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of. Fortunately, the folks over at the Fight to Repair newsletter are here to help: recapping the most important repair news for iFixit readers. As a special offer, iFixit.com readers can claim a free, 60-day premium membership to the Fight to Repair newsletter. Visit fighttorepair.substack.com/ifixit.
Massachusetts has long carried the flag for the most progressive state in the nation: the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 and the first to implement universal health care for its residents (dubbed “Romneycare”) in 2006. More recent accomplishments include the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2018, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related issues.
Repair is no different. The Bay State has been in the vanguard of the right to repair movement for years. Massachusetts voters are the reason you are free to take your car to an independent mechanic or grab parts and information from AutoZone to repair your car yourself. Massachusetts voters passed a 2012 state right to repair law granting access to diagnostic information needed to do repairs, and in 2014 automakers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that recognized the terms of that ballot measure nationally. In other words, Massachusetts state law created ripples that have tremendous impacts on the 91% of households that own a car in the U.S.
But then there’s Colorado—a historically conservative Western state that, with bipartisan support, has cleared the way for the nation’s first-ever agricultural right to repair bill. The bill will allow farmers to fix their own tractors and other agricultural equipment. And, it comes on the heels of a groundbreaking right to repair bill for powered wheelchairs that Colorado passed last year and the effects of which are already being felt (and celebrated). After its anticipated signing by the governor, the agriculture-focused bill should provide more independent repair options for farmers, giving them access to the parts, diagnostics, and documentation they need to make repairs.
The passage of this law also comes at the same time as a new report showing just how costly the lack of agricultural repair really is. Manufacturers’ restrictions on service and repair and the resulting equipment downtime cost the average farmer more than $3,000 annually, according to a new PIRG report. That adds up to more than $3 billion in damage to agricultural producers in the U.S. each year, PIRG estimated. The same report analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data and showed that soybean and corn farmers’ repair costs have nearly doubled over the past two decades.
The state has proved the political durability of right to repair in the face of moneyed interests. Given repair will save farmers money, it’s a politically savvy move as well. Not only will the continued support from Colorado’s legislature keep normalizing the concept of right to repair within its borders, as we’ve seen before, but it also sets precedent for others to follow.
- FTC sends an expert to California in support of right to repair bill: Dan Salsburg, Chief Counsel for Development and Innovation in the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection testified in California in support of a proposed state right to repair law. Salsburg reiterated the 2021 Nixing the Fix discovery that repair restrictions are not found to prevent injuries resulting from improperly fixing a product. They also found no evidence to suggest that independent repair shops are more or less likely than authorized shops to compromise or misuse customer data.
- Companies don’t want you to fix your broken thing: On a Wisconsin WORT podcast, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens joins guest host Patty Peltekos of A Public Affair to talk about the problem of planned obsolescence and the Right to Repair Movement.
- SMART Act could capitalize on repair wins: Congress sets its sights on curtailing the legacy of activist judges and a power-hungry Patent Office by correcting the design patent abuses currently limiting competition. Darrel Issa, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet has introduced a bill with bipartisan support to fix this problem. The Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation (SMART) Act would narrowly amend the design patent law to give car manufacturers 2.5 years rather than 14 years to enforce design patents on collision repair parts—things like fenders, quarter panels, doors, mirrors, taillights, etc.
- Ads and algorithms are pushing pretty garbage: Cory Doctorow says that, compared to web-searched products, goods purchased through highly targeted online ads (found on major social media platforms) are more likely to be overpriced and from vendors with poor ratings from Better Business Bureau. Doctorow says social media ads push overpriced junk, attributing this to companies paying more on targeted advertising and passing that price onto consumers while cutting corners on quality.
- Hackers exploit headlights to steal cars: Car theft involving a smart headlight’s wiring, has been reported by automotive security experts. Thieves can gain network access by breaking open one of its headlights and using the connection to the CAN bus to send messages. A successful execution of a “CAN injection” would allow thieves to falsify messages from the car’s smart key receiver, causing the security system to unlock the vehicle and disable the engine immobilizer. Yet more examples of lazy smart-tech integration, which expose consumers to risk, all while barring them from correcting the problem.