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Oregon Passes ‘Right to Repair’ Law With Extra Cojones

Oregon’s “right to repair” bill, which now only needs the governor’s signature before it becomes law, has teeth not found in similar legislation from other states.

Source: Pixabay

The “right to repair” states just became a gang of seven.

On Monday, the Oregon House passed a “right to repair” bill, after the State’s Senate passed the legislation in February. All that’s left now is for the state’s governor, Tina Kotek, to put her John Hancock on it, and the bill becomes law.

The bill requires manufacturers to provide open access to parts, tools, and information needed to fix their products, many of which manufacturers are currently restricting to “authorized” service centers. It also stops the practice of disabling devices or voiding warranties when devices are fixed without authorized parts. Its passage puts the state in league with six other states that have similar laws: New York, California, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, and Minnesota.

“Right to Repair keeps getting stronger, and Oregon has passed the best bill yet,” Nathan Proctor, the senior right to repair campaign director for the non-profit Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement. “By keeping products running and off the scrap heap, repair cuts waste and saves consumers money. People are tired of not being able to fix things, and lawmakers have gotten the message and in turn are sending that message to the manufacturers.”

Outlawing Product Pairing

Proctor called the legislation “the best bill yet” because it goes a step further than other state’s right to repair laws by calling out and making illegal “product pairing,” in which onboard software makes it impossible to install parts that aren’t from the manufacturer.

Product pairing has become a favorite way for companies to make sure that products they sell are repaired only by them, and it’s not covered in any of the other state’s right to repair laws. Apple relies on product pairing extensively. iPhone owners, for instance, generally can’t replace any parts unless the phone can determine that the replacement is a genuine Apple replacement part. This led Apple, which has supported right to repair legislation in other states, to lobby against Oregon’s bill.

“We remain very concerned about the risk to consumers imposed by the broad parts-pairing restrictions in this bill,” Apple’s principal secure repair architect, John Perry, said in February at a legislative hearing.

“An iPhone contains its owner’s important personal data including financial, health, and location information, and this bill introduces the possibility that Apple would be required to allow unknown, non-secure third-party Face ID or Touch ID modules to unlock that personal information,” Apple said in a statement on March 4. “We will continue to support repair legislation, but strongly believe this bill does not offer the consumer protections Oregonians deserve.”

That’s all horse-hockey, of course, and basically a way for Apple to publicly support right to repair while denying it to its customers, as noted by iFixit, a how-to website that sells repair parts and publishes free wiki-like online repair guides for consumer electronics and such:

“Over the last few years, our research found that iPhone repair has become increasingly challenging to do outside an Apple-approved repair shop—despite the fact that Apple has introduced direct-to-consumer parts sales, and despite their expansion of the Independent Repair Program. The main challenge has been a system of software restrictions called parts pairing, which rely on parts being paired with a device serial number. Then, when the device does not recognize the part, it may not work at all (for instance, the iPhone selfie camera) or will work with limitations (screens missing True Tone and Auto-Brightness; batteries missing battery health) or will work but have vague and misleading warnings (“unidentified battery” even when the part is an original Apple battery, taken from an identical same-model phone).”

Or, as Karl Bode put it at Techdirt:

“Apple has generally tried to pretend that it’s done a complete 180 on right to repair, when it’s generally been more of a 40 degree turn toward slightly more reasonable policies.”

Protection from Unqualified Repairmen

In addition, the bill includes added protection for consumers, to make sure that hapless repair people without experience don’t hang a repair sign in the window and start bricking people’s devices when they’re brought in the be fixed. The bill requires independent shops accessing repair materials to have “a valid and unexpired certification that the person has the technical capabilities and competence necessary” to do repairs.” The bill specifically points to WISE, CompTIA A+, and NAST certifications, but also allows manufacturers to accept other certs.

Covered by the legislation: consumer electronics and appliances (but not video game consoles), heating and air conditioning units, and vehicles. Except for cell phones, all electronics made after 2015 are covered. Cell phones need to have been made after July 2021.

One Comment

  1. CK CK March 14, 2024

    Apple’s complaint seems quite valid to me. This article would be more credible if it justified or explained the dismissal of that concern as more than just “horse hockey”.

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