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‘Right to Repair' Bill Aims to Give Consumers Product Fix Choices

Recently introduced Right to Repair legislation would allow customers to use independent repair shops to fix everything from cars to phones without the threat of a warranty being voided

NBC Universal, Inc.

Shouldn’t you be able to get stuff you own fixed where and how you want? 

That’s a question consumer advocates are asking amid growing pressure on manufacturers to give consumers the freedom to choose who repairs their products. 

Recently introduced right-to-repair legislation would allow customers to use independent repair shops to fix everything from cars to phones without the threat of a warranty being voided. 

Some manufacturers of vehicles, electronics and appliances make it tough for independent shops and DIY’ers to make repairs. 

“They want the profits from the part replacements, right?” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor of Consumers’ Checkbook. 

“The problem is a lot of companies, especially electronics manufacturers, have designed their products in a way to make them very difficult to repair,” he added. 

That means consumers have no choice but to use authorized service providers instead of independent shops that may be more affordable and accessible. 

There’s also the issue of a company threatening to void your warranty if you get a product fixed by someone not authorized by the manufacturer. 

“If you want to get a repair like a battery replacement or your screen gets cracked — something that's not going to be covered by the warranty — you, by law, are supposed to be able to go somewhere and get that work done right without voiding the warranty,” Brasler said. 

Federal lawmakers introduced Right to Repair legislation last month. it would ensure that independent repair shops have equal access to manufacturers’ maintenance tools, such as access to software to diagnose issues. 

Several manufacturers have argued that their policies are in place for safety reasons, saying staff at their own facilities and authorized repair shops undergo specialized training and are accountable to the manufacturer if they do shoddy repairs. 

As Right to Repair legislation makes its way through Congress, here’s what you can do: 

  • Before purchasing a smartphone, tablet or laptop, consider the score it received from iFixit for repairability.
  • Think about how you’ll use a product, especially an expensive one. How difficult is it to maintain? Will it need an upgrade, or would you bother to repair it if it breaks?
  • If the manual warns that the item has no user-serviceable parts, it might be a product to skip. 
  • Read the warranty; federal law requires sellers to make it available before you buy. Review what it says about any effect self-repairs and third-party repairs have on warranty coverage. 
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