Right-to-repair advocates make their case in one statehouse


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Electronics repair stakeholders clashed over right-to-repair legislation in Washington state this week, as a number of state legislatures begin taking up similar bills.

In Washington state, Senate Bill 5799 would require electronics manufacturers to provide to independent repair shops the parts, tools, equipment and information needed to fix devices. Nationwide, 15 states have active right-to-repair bills, according to The Repair Association, which expects another five or more bills to be introduced this year.

At least 20 state legislatures had right-to-repair legislation introduced last year. No state has yet passed and signed an electronics right-to-repair bill into law.

In Olympia, Wash., right-to-repair proponents and opponents testified during a Jan. 21 hearing in front of the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee, which did not immediately take action on the bill.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, called the legislation a “good small business bill.”

“Big corporations that control the vertical process from manufacturer to end-of-life use don’t need advocacy because they’ve got plenty of advocates down here,” he told the committee. “But I’m here to advocate for small business owners.”

He was joined by bill advocate Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Kitsap County, who said we need to challenge big technology corporations and the concept of a business model that depends on functional obsolescence.

“I’m not suggesting that we make this technology easy to steal and easy to duplicate, but I am suggesting that Big Tech gives us products that we can repair,” she said.

Bill advocates plead for passage

Representatives from two repair shops in Portland, Ore., which is just across the Columbia River from Washington, spoke in favor of the bill.

Adelle Pomeroy, digital inclusion manager at nonprofit repair and recycling organization Free Geek, noted that difficulty refurbishing and repairing used devices hurts the group’s effort to help bridge the digital divide.

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