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California Right To Repair Bill Takes Aim at Gadget Makers
By Seung Lee
Posted: March 9, 2018 5:53am PST

Do-it-yourself fixers and independent repair shops in California have had to repair electronic devices like an iPhone without direct help from creators like Apple for several years. Now, a state legislator is trying to change that.

Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) introduced the proposed California Right to Repair Act on Wednesday to require electronic manufacturers to make diagnostic and repair information, and repair parts and equipment, publicly available to the owners of the product and independent repair shops.

Eggman believes her bill would help reduce electronic waste and create more repair jobs in California.

"As we continue to evolve in our dependence for technology, we go through and create a lot of electronic waste," said Eggman. "It just feels as though corporate America developed a business practice that sells you something, but you can only go back to them to fix for another $1,000. In my day, when you bought a microwave, it lasted a really long time and you would repair it on your own."

With Eggman's proposal, California becomes the 18th state to introduce similar proposed legislation as a grassroots right-to-repair movement has grown popular in the past three years. Right-to-repair advocates claim electronics manufacturers in the past two decades or so have withheld repair manuals and made parts difficult to find or electronics difficult to repair by building with customized parts, like Apple's pentalobe security screw.

For advocates, Apple arguably has been the most vehement opponent of their movement and state-level legislation, along with other technology companies such as IBM and Cisco. Apple has been lobbying state legislators in Nebraska and New York to block similar bills from passage, according to Vice Motherboard. None of the 17 states so far has enacted any right-to-repair bills.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. But the Cupertino tech giant has commented in the past that it is stepping up efforts to make its products more environmentally friendly while keeping a tight hold of its product design and repairs to ensure quality and safety.

Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director at The Repair Association, a political advocacy group for the right to repair, told this news organization the bill has been in the works in California for months and that her organization has been in contact with Eggman's staff to draft it.

Gordon-Byrne also said California is a leader in the repair movement and that the proposed Right to Repair Act complements the existing Lemon Law, which requires manufacturers of cars and household electronic goods that sell for more than $100 to provide spare parts for up to seven years, regardless of warranty status.

"We were nervous about going head-to-head with Apple in its home state," said Gordon-Byrne. "But I'm thrilled. [The bill has] been percolating for a while."

While wary of Apple's outsized influence in California, Eggman saw her bill as the latest chapter in a growing national consumer movement.

"Yes, Apple is going to fight back," said Eggman. "Because it is a very, very wealthy and very important corporation doesn't mean an average citizen can't question its business practice."

© 2018 San Jose Mercury News. Syndicated here under contract with YellowBrix, Inc. All rights reserved.

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