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CR Letter in Support of H.R. 4006, The Fair Repair Act

Consumer Reports writes in support of H.R. 4006, the Fair Repair Act. This important legislation will help ensure that consumers have the choice to fix their own electronics-enabled products, if they can, or to have them fixed by a repair servicer of their choosing, including servicers independent of the manufacturer. President Biden has recognized the importance of this right, by including it in the Executive Order he released last week. And in May, the Federal Trade Commission released a landmark report, Nixing the Fix, which explores how repair restrictions hurt consumers. The Fair Repair Act would secure these important rights for consumers, independent businesses, and our economy by enacting them into law, and we urge your support for it.

CR has long supported this “right to repair,” including by developing model legislation to help guide state legislators. H.R. 4006 follows the model act we developed. And we have also incorporated this principle into the Digital Standard, a set of best practices that Consumer Reports uses to evaluate the privacy and security of software, digital platforms and services, and internet-connected products, as well as to help influence the consumer-friendly design of these products. It is important to safeguard and maintain consumers’ ability to exercise their full rights of ownership over the electronics-enabled consumer products they purchase, including the right to repair them, and the right to resell them, even as technology evolves. Ensuring an effective right to repair will also expand consumer choice in the marketplace, save consumers money, and reduce waste.

Consumers, farmers, and others who have been able in the past to choose to fix their own cars, machinery, appliances, or other products, or to call on a trusted neighborhood repair shop or mechanic, know how important these ownership rights are.

But as products from smartphones and televisions to appliances and tractors become increasingly outfitted with computer software, it has become easier for manufacturers to interfere with these rights. It’s often difficult now for consumers to make simple repairs on their devices—even simple repairs such as changing a smartphone battery or replacing a cracked screen. Not only are the electronics frequently designed in a way to intentionally prevent easy repair, but manufacturers are restricting access to the basic diagnostic information, repair tools, and replacement parts needed to fix the products. Some manufacturers even put digital locks on devices to block third-party repair.

These tactics force consumers to rely on the manufacturer, or the manufacturer’s handpicked servicer, to fix these products. The manufacturer is then free to charge whatever it wishes, or even to refuse to repair the product and force the consumer to throw it away and buy a new product.

Manufacturers and their representatives have worked to defeat Right to Repair legislation, often by using spurious arguments about safety and security. On the contrary, this bill would better ensure the safety of products, and without sacrificing consumer choice. Independent repair technicians would have to meet whatever certification requirements are set by state law, just like authorized repair technicians. This bill would ensure that they have the same access to proper instructions that are vetted for safety.

For the full letter, please see the attached PDF.