The right to repair – what’s at stake, and what’s happening
The push for the right of consumers to repair devices like smartphones, tablets and electronics raises important new legal issues and challenges for manufacturers of digital devices. The “right to repair” movement would expand a consumer’s right to access the “guts” of digital devices to fix problems. Federal action and state law have pioneered right to repair in recent years, but these legal developments raise questions around liability for exposure to hazardous substances and protection of copyright interests.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) triggered a flurry of commercial compliance reviews last summer when it brought back-to-back enforcement actions against a trio of manufacturers whose warranties limited the ability of consumers to seek third-party repairs or spare parts. The actions were brought as part of the FTC’s commitment to protect consumers’ “right to repair” their own devices or engage independent repairers rather than be forced to pay for parts or services from the original manufacturer.
And FTC action is just one piece of the puzzle. Since then, several states have passed increasingly broad right-to-repair legislation, with the first such law going into effect July 1, 2023, while many more states are considering proposed bills.
The legislation has garnered significant attention and sparked extensive policy debate, but most discussion has been limited to the immediate practicalities surrounding self- and third-party repair. The broader consequences these laws and bills could pose for companies striving to harmonize new right-to-repair compliance with existing chemical exposure liability or protect legitimate copyright interests have been largely overlooked.
This handbook explores these issues.
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