The “Right to Repair” – the ability for a product owner or consumer to make repairs themselves or through a technician of their choosing – concept has been used for decades. However, as a movement, it’s experienced increasing growth and support, including recent backing from a legislative perspective in the U.S. and prioritization from the Biden Administration, as part of a wider effort to boost competition.
Understanding the Right to Repair
When manufacturers of vehicles, consumer electronics, medical and farm equipment, and other devices restrict access to essential repair materials, it can leave hospital repair technicians, consumers, and small business owners alike without the tools they need to fix their equipment as soon as it breaks, resulting in unneeded downtime. Typically, manufacturers invest significant attention and considerable resources to making sure their customers have the tools they need to be empowered and successful – from manuals to product guides to servicing and parts information to diagnostic tools. Debate by industry associations and stakeholders in the U.S. often centers around the scope of Right to Repair legislation being introduced, which for complex products with embedded code, can have repercussions beyond just repair – related to safety, liability, data privacy, and protection.
Agricultural Right to Repair
Currently, the Right to Repair has already been applied in some states to auto-repair so that parts and tools needed for repair are available to customers and independent mechanics, not just dealerships. On February 1, the Agricultural Right to Repair Act was introduced to the U.S. Senate, to require farm equipment manufacturers to provide parts, documentation, software, and tools for repairs to third parties on reasonable terms. These fair and reasonable terms in the act aim to ensure that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs):
1. Provide parts, tools, and software costs that are equivalent to the lowest actual cost of already authorized providers (this includes any discounts, rebates, or other financial incentives).
2. Give terms of delivery time and methods that are equivalent to those that OEMs offer parts, tools, and software to already authorized providers.
3. Do not impose any substantial obligation to use or restrict parts, tools, software, or documentation to diagnose or repair electronic malfunctions.
4. Prohibits OEMs and authorized repair providers from imposing any additional costs or burdens that are not reasonably necessary or are impediments on the owner or independent repair provider.
The Agricultural Right to Repair Act is a big undertaking, and has several other requirements for OEMs if it’s passed into legislation. These state that OEMs should:
- Make available any documentation (at no charge unless printed), part, software (at no charge), or tool required to diagnose, maintain, or repair their equipment.
- Provide means to disable and re-enable an electronic security lock or other security-related function to effect diagnostics, repair, or maintenance.
- Permit third party software to provide interoperability with other parts/tools, and to protect both the farmer’s data and equipment from hackers.
- Ensure that when a manufacturer no longer produces documentation, parts, software, or tools for its equipment that the relevant copyrights and patents are placed in the public domain.
- Ensure parts are replaceable using commonly available tools without causing damage to the equipment, or provide specialized tools to owners or independent providers on fair and reasonable terms.
- Return data ownership to farmers that is collected by the electronic parts within machinery.
The legislation will also empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to treat any violations of the above provisions as an unfair or deceptive act. It also grants the FTC authority to promulgate regulations necessary to carry out this bill.
Electronic Equipment Controls
Yesterday, February 2, the Freedom to Repair Act was introduced to the House of Representatives to legalize diagnosing, maintaining, or repairing an electronic device you already own or taking that equipment to a repair shop of your choice by revising copyright laws. This mainly aims to allow people to circumnavigate system controls put in place by the manufacturer to gain access to their electronic equipment to fix or diagnose it without voiding the warranty. This new proposal, however, does not apply to manufacturers or distributers of medical devices or digital electronic products and software used in medical settings.
Safety That Evolves
Whether related to equipment safety or equipment standards and regulations, Clarion Safety is dedicated to keeping up with best practice procedures and your ever changing needs as a manufacturer. As legislation in both safety protocols and management software evolves, keep in mind that we offer comprehensive machinery risk assessment services, manual audits, and custom cloud based training platforms through ClarionAccess® and OEM services. You can also contact our team any time for assistance in selecting the best labels, signs, or tags for your needs.