A right-to-repair bill filed in the Delaware General Assembly would require companies such as Apple and John Deere to provide manufacturer parts to fix their products outside of their own stores.
House Bill 41, filed by Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown and Long Neck, would give individuals and small businesses access to technical parts needed to repair digital devices.
That will enable consumers to save money by repairing expensive technology instead of just replacing it, and it will mean fewer things like phones and televisions end up landfills, Briggs King said.
Matt Kilic, owner of Rehoboth Beach Phone Repair, said many of his customers bring in a device with a cracked screen. Sometimes, the devices need hardware and software repairs.
He has to tell them that he can repair the phone, but likely will need to use similar, non-brand parts.
That doesn’t worry most people, he said, because his company can do the repairs more cheaply than taking it to a company store.
Otherwise, the phone owners would have to travel two hours to an official Apple store, such as the one at Christiana Mall, and pay $300 to have a cracked screen fixed. He charges $100.
“There is a big market, and we can usually find the parts we need,” Kilic said.
Need for right-to-repair
Briggs King said her right-to-repair bill can be critical for those who use farm or medical equipment, including tractors and ventilators.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she said a constituent told her she needed to repair her ventilator. The company providing it would not repair it, so the woman was forced to spend $15,000 for a new ventilator.
“I’ve heard from farmers who have had a terrible time … trying to fix newer equipment that has technology in it,” King said. “They can find the problem, but then aren’t able to fix it.”
Briggs King says companies like John Deere and Apple copyright their parts because they want to be the only ones who can repair equipment.
“Delays in repairs can cost farmers a crop,” she said. “Especially in our area, it is hard to access repair shops.”
Around the country, about 26 similar bills are expected to be filed in state legislatures because of the right-to-repair movement.
Briggs King filed a similar bill last year, and it passed through a committee hearing to the House floor, but was never brought up on the Democratic-controlled House agenda.
Efforts were unsuccessful to get a comment about the bill from House Democratic caucus members or staffers.
“We really need to do something,” King said. “This bill is good for consumers and businesses.”
Most Americans used to get their televisions fixed when something went wrong, she pointed out.
Go to a landfill or recycling center today “and you’ll see piles of televisions.”
It’s easier to buy a new set, meaning a lot of electronics end up in landfills.
“It is limiting businesses in Delaware because they cannot get the parts or the tools to fix electronic devices,” King said.
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Massachusetts was the first to pass right-to-repair legislation. That state’s first bill focused on automotive repair, allowing car repair shops to have improved access to parts.
New York passed a digital right-to-repair law in December 2022. The bill Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law included amendments made because of concerns about “safety and security.”
New Jersey is among the other states taking up the digital right-to-repair legislation.
The first version of the legislation was introduced last year by Deputy Speaker Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty, D-Turnersville and Laurel Springs.
It didn’t make it out of committee, but Moriarty is expected to file another version this year.
Briggs King hopes House representatives will discuss the bill during the early part of this year’s session, which began today with everyone being sworn into office.
“I am hopeful we will get this bill out of committee and onto the floor where we can have a good debate and make things work for the people,” King said.
To learn more about the right-to-repair issue and legislation, go to repair.org.
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