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'Fair repair' bill aims to unlock repairs by independent providers

Opening products to independent repair providers will save consumers money, reduce waste and expand economic opportunities, say supporters of a bill approved Wednesday by the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee Wednesday.

Detractors say the plan puts manufacturers and consumers at risk if complex equipment repair is undertaken by people who are undertrained or unaccountable.   

Sponsored by Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood), HF1156 would require manufacturers to make parts, documentation and diagnostic tools for digital electronic equipment available to independent repair providers or the equipment owner. Approved 9-8, it was sent to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.  

The companion, SF2080, is sponsored by Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart (DFL-Wayzata) and awaits action by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee.

The primary purpose of the bill is to give consumers a choice, said Fischer, adding it would help promote tech jobs, reduce e-commerce waste, and guarantee free-market access. It’s also critical for farmers who don’t have the luxury of waiting days to get equipment fixed during planting and harvesting season, he said.

Being able to repair and reuse appliances is an important method of waste diversion, according to Laura Horner, chair of the Association of Recycling Managers.

“Many manufacturers make it impossible — whether inadvertently or intentionally — for consumers or independent repair technicians to fix their products, leaving consumers with few other options than to buy new,” Horner wrote in a letter.

The bill is an unnecessary intervention in the marketplace that could cause more problems than solutions, argue representatives of manufacturers of a wide variety of products including video games, boats, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, household appliances, consumer electronics, security equipment, toys and lithium-ion batteries.

They believe the bill would harm consumer security and safety, and it mandates disclosure of computer code that allows dangerous or illegal equipment modifications. It fails to account for advancements in sustainability, expanded opportunities to become authorized repair providers and risks associated with opening products to modifications rather than repairs.

“The bill places consumers and their data at risk, undermines the business of Minnesota companies that are part of OEM-authorized networks, and stifles innovation by putting hard-earned intellectual property in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of new entities,” according to a letter submitted by a coalition of manufacturers who oppose the bill.

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