Minnesota’s right-to-repair law adds to hodgepodge
29, Jun 2023
Minnesota’s right-to-repair law adds to hodgepodge

Do-it-yourselfers and repair shops last month were celebrating Minnesota’s enactment of a broad “right to repair law“ that requires many manufacturers to share parts and information on their products.

The Minnesota law, which was signed by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz as part of the state budget, requires manufacturers of electronic devices such as phones, tablets, household appliances and laptops to provide parts, tools and instructions on how to fix equipment to independent repair shops and consumers.

It goes into effect July 1, 2024.

Manufacturers have long opposed such measures, arguing right-to-repair measures could pose dangers to would-be repairers and the equipment as well as compromise the safety and security of the devices.

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And, of course, left unsaid, is that right-to-repair bills could shift revenue away from the company repair business and allow less expensive small repair shops to clean additional profits.

But clearly there is some momentum behind right-to-repair legislation in several states — and Wisconsin lawmakers should take note of that.

Minnesota joined New York, Massachusetts and Colorado on the list of states with introduced such measures and, according to the Public Interest Research Group, lawmakers in 29 states right-to-repair measures last year.

Nathan Proctor, senior director of PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, said Minnesota’s law will “cut waste and save consumers money. It’s common sense and it is becoming increasingly clear that manufacturers’ attempts to thwart repair will no longer be tolerated.”

But, before we joined the “right-to-repair” bandwagon, we had to question whether it’s wise to have a patch-work quilt of differing laws for differing products when they’re passed state-by-state.

From what we’ve seen so far, several of the states have issued carve-outs for different products as the political fight has waged.

Minnesota, for example, exempted farm equipment, video game consoles, specialized cybersecurity tools, medical devices and vehicles from its new law.

Colorado took a different tack and applied its law only to farm equipment and power wheelchairs. Massachusetts’ law applies to vehicles. A proposed Vermont law would apply to agricultural equipment. New York’s law doesn’t cover home appliances or commercial and educational computing systems.

Clearly there is a lack of uniformity as the right-to-repair movement shuffles along.

Our view is that this issue needs consistency and the only way to get that is for Congress to take up the issue and develop a federal right to repair laws to apply to all states.

That, however, has not happened and Congress has shown no appetite to take up this issue.

That means we’ll likely be saddled with disputes and court cases as challenges are raised to the right to repair bills with each state.

We deserve better than that.