By Mary Stroka [The Center Square contributor] –
Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti along with 26 other state attorneys general are asking Congress to pass Right-to-Repair legislation that they say will protect consumers, farmers and small businesses as inflation increases.
The bipartisan coalition’s letter said Right-to-Repair legislation targeted at automobiles, agricultural equipment and digital electronic equipment is about ensuring consumers have choices about where, when and at what cost they can get repairs, as well as ensuring small businesses can compete against original equipment manufacturers.
“Ultimately, it is about safeguarding competition as a key part of our free market economy,” the letter said. “Manufacturing of automobiles, digital devices, and agricultural equipment is increasingly becoming more technologically advanced and built with more embedded electronics. OEMs often control access to these electronics parts, creating unfair restraint of trade and a monopoly on repair. This can harm consumers directly by driving up prices and is antithetical to a free market.”
In last year’s Congressional session, legislators introduced the Fair Repair Act (H.R. 4006), the Saving Money on Auto Repair Transportation Act (the SMART Act) (H.R. 3664), and the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act (REPAIR Act) (H.R. 6570), but the bills didn’t move forward in the House, despite public support, the letter said.
The Fair Repair Act requires original equipment manufacturers to make documentation, parts and tools available to independent repair providers and device owners to repair products. Vehicles and medical devices are excluded.
The SMART Act allows repair shops to use alternative or off-brand parts to repair vehicles, saving consumers money, the letter said.
The REPAIR Act requires original equipment manufacturers to provide vehicle owners with data on the vehicle’s operation related to diagnostics, repair, calibration and service that they’d be able to provide to a repair shop or retain. OEMs couldn’t mandate specific brands be used on a vehicle.
The attorneys general said any law should include protections that ensure consumers are receiving a safe repair and that sensitive consumer data that could be accessed and collected during a repair is appropriately protected.
Attorneys general across the country have made statements supplementing the letter.
“The monopoly on repairs hurts consumers,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Original Equipment Manufacturers restrict competition for repair services by limiting the availability of parts, making diagnostic software unavailable, or using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, all of which can result in higher product and repair prices.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said in a statement that as farm input and food prices rise, farmers don’t need unnecessary disruptions to planting and harvesting, so Congress should act to help them make repairs affordably and quickly.
“A free market cannot exist when consumers don’t have the choice to repair or replace an item that they purchase,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “When manufacturers force consumers to rely on the original manufacturer to fix or replace their products, the companies undermine competition, drive up prices, and create waste. This Right-to-Repair legislation will empower every American — from farmers to car owners — to repair their property on their own terms. I am grateful for President Biden’s efforts to address this important issue, and now ask Congress to do their part to protect consumers, the environment, and small businesses.”
The attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin also signed the letter.