Eleven Lousy Tech Bills from the 117th Congress: Fair Repair Act

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People drop their phones a lot. According to the electronic repair company uBreakiFix, 95 million smartphones are dropped annually in the U.S. and two smartphone screens are cracked every second. Those who have previously broken a smartphone are also twice as likely to break their phone again.

Naturally, clumsiness has created a ripe opportunity for the electronic repair business. Cell phone repair, an industry that barely existed before 2008, is estimated to be worth $4 billion with nearly 10,000 businesses across the U.S. And electronic and computer repair is estimated to be $19 billion, with over 40,000 businesses. 

Congress, however, wants to fix the electronic repair industry. Is it broken? No. But the final piece of tech legislation in this blog series intently seeks to break it.

10. Fair Repair Act

One legislative proposal that has garnered less attention in the mire of tech bills this congressional session is the Fair Repair Act (H.R. 4006, S. 3830), which would require manufactures of mobile phones, tablets, and laptops to make certain diagnostic material and repair parts available for sale to users and repair shops.

The bill is just part of the larger “Right to Repair” movement. Yet, users already have the right to repair their electronic devices. And the Fair Repair Act contains nothing suggesting the contrary. Rather, the legislation forces companies like Apple and Samsung to contract the sale of parts and information.

The text of the legislation raises significant security concerns, as it applies to “digital electronic equipment that contains an electronic security lock or other security-related function.” It requires manufactures to provide “any special documentation, tools, and parts needed to disable the lock or function.” These security features exist to protect user data and devices.

Some electronic devices are easier to repair than others. That’s just one aspect that consumers consider when choosing products. Furthermore, the price range for mobile devices vary to a great extent. Affordable smartphones and tablets are available for under $150, a lower price than the cost of some Apple device repairs.  

The Fair Repair Act is a solution in search of a problem. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that an independent repair shop can provide services for as little as one-third of the cost charged by the original manufacturer. The prevalence of high-end personal electronic devices in the market has created the demand for affordable repair services, a win-win for both consumers and thousands of small businesses.