July 22, 2021
The Debate on “Right to Repair”: A Primer
President Biden’s recent executive order on competition restarted a debate over whether technology companies and other manufacturers should be able to restrict who can repair their products. While rural residents and entrepreneurs would benefit from an expanded “right to repair,” manufacturers have valid concerns surrounding data privacy, intellectual property, and brand integrity, contends AAF’s Technology & Innovation Policy Analyst Juan Londoño. More moderate solutions to this problem, such as pursuing broader licensing by manufacturers, could be a better approach that benefits consumers while addressing the concerns of manufacturers.
Strengthening the offering of repair services benefits users by reducing the costs of repairing electronics and other essential goods such as tractors. But the implementation of a right to repair mandate is not as simple as it may seem, as it can also negatively impact both consumers and manufacturers. Promoting independent repair services must also come with safeguards that protect the intellectual property rights of manufacturers and the safety of consumers. Alternatives such as an expansion or implementation of a certification or licensing program provided by manufacturers could solve most of these concerns. Advancing right to repair ought to examine cases of success such as the car repair market, where ultimately manufacturers and repair shops worked together to create a standard where consumers, repair shops, and manufacturers all benefit.