Right to Repair – Legislative Developments

By Ken Vickerson

You might have missed this, I know I did, but there have been some significant developments regarding the “Right to Repair” (RTR) movement both in Europe and North America. In April the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to adopt legislation(1) that would enshrine various principles of the Right to Repair agenda into law for the European Union. Each member country will have until April 2026 to enact these directives into law.

The adopted directive(2) is comprehensive in scope and obliges manufacturers to offer repair at a reasonable price and in a reasonable timeframe after the warranty period, an extension of the warranty for one year after the repair, and easy, affordable access to parts, tools and information to consumers. It also provides incentives for repairing goods and platforms to assist consumers in finding local repair services and refurbished goods. The directive is framed to make repair cheaper than replacement and as such “empowers consumers to fight climate change” (René Repasi-MEP, SPD-Germany). In the US, RTR laws(3) have taken effect in California and Minnesota as of July 1st for companies selling electronics and small appliances in those states. iFixit, a privately held company devoted to selling repair tools and making repair information available to consumers, is collaborating with companies to design and develop repairable products and achieve compliance with the new laws.

Similar efforts to advance RTR legislation have been undertaken in Canada by CanRepair a diverse advocacy group led by Anthony Rosborough from Dalhousie University and joined by NGOs such as Equiterre, which supports the organic agricultural sector in Quebec, as well as representatives from various Repair Café branches and repair enterprises large and small. These efforts have resulted in amendments to federal copyright legislation (bills C-244 and C-294) and efforts at the provincial level. Progress at the provincial level will likely be the most significant to consumers and progress has been made in P.E.I. and Quebec with a bill(4) in the Ontario Provincial Legislature passed first reading. The adoption of RTR legislation in Canada is likely to be more piecemeal as individual provinces have more control over the necessary legislative levers.

A recent CBC News article(5) by Nick Logan describes Apple’s action to allow consumers to repair Apple products in Canada. Unfortunately the details around this move by Apple seems less than sincere and appear to make DIY repair more expensive and difficult than taking it to an authorized dealer. In my opinion, this type of bad faith dealing would not fly under EU RTR laws. Let’s hope the RTR agenda is taken up as enthusiastically and as thoroughly in Canada as they have been in the EU. CanRepair is developing a draft definition of the right to repair which will be a useful tool for advocacy when completed and will help Canadian legislators better understand the issues and obstacles from the perspective of the consumer. It does however take pressure from voters to push legislators to act. You know what to do.