Battle lines are clear in digital repair combat

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BOSTON (SHNS) – The average Massachusetts family could save $ 330 per year if they could repair electronics rather than replace them, which is an estimated annual savings of $ 875 million for Bay State consumers, said Monday supporters of the digital right to repair movement.

The savings would be realized if people repaired their smartphones, laptops, tablets, games consoles or other electronic devices to extend life by 50%, Janet Domenitz of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group told lawmakers on Monday as she testified in favor of legislation (H 341 / S 166) that would require manufacturers of digital electronics and other products to make diagnostic tools and repair information available to product owners and independent repair shops .

“Manufacturers of everything from phones to appliances to tractors intentionally make things difficult to fix, limiting repairs to their only branded suppliers if they let anyone fix it,” Domenitz told the Joint Committee on consumer protection and licensing. “Manufacturers are aggressively blocking repairs to force us to go back or buy the latest version. The result is skyrocketing repair costs and a huge amount of waste. “

MASSPIRG released a report in July that found that every American family disposes of an average of 176 pounds of electronic waste per year – waste that the group said could be largely avoided if access to digital repair information were mandatory.

Opponents, who ranged from trade organizations representing video game makers to agricultural equipment dealers on Monday, countered that their increasingly complicated technology should only be managed by people trained to fix it properly and that most manufacturers already provide product repair and support.

“As John Deere equipment has become more sophisticated, Deere supports the customer’s right to repair and has incorporated advanced diagnostic capabilities into our equipment that are available to owner, dealers or even state legislators like you, ”Daniel Carson, corporate sales manager for the John Deere United Construction and Forestry dealer group, said. “John Deere provides subscription access to Customer Service Advisor, which is a specialized diagnostic tool similar to the tools our technicians use to support our customers. The Customer Service Advisor allows the equipment owner – the equipment owner – to do 95% of the repairs we do at a dealership.

John Keane of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers told lawmakers it could be dangerous to expand the pool of people who can fix things in people’s homes.

“Improper repairs could result in significant property damage, including improper splicing of wires posing a fire hazard to the consumer and the use of the wrong refrigerants which can cause irreparable damage to the product,” he said.

Alexander Castillo, who owns three independent repair shops in Massachusetts, told the committee that his Boston shop does about 3,000 repairs per year. He said his customers usually choose to bring their devices to his store rather than return them to the manufacturer because his prices are around 50% cheaper and he can get a repair done much faster than most manufacturers.

“90% of my customers prefer to repair their devices rather than buy a new one. [one]. I constantly receive repair customers with devices that we have the ability to extend their lifespan … The only problem we have is with new devices, there is not enough information for us to be able to provide a service, technically fix it – no schematics, no software, ”says Castillo. “It has been very difficult, especially on newer devices, for us to provide the service we want to customers. “

Matthew Lenz, director of government affairs for the Entertainment Software Association, told the committee that the organizations his group represents, including video game console makers like Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, are building in security features to prevent tampering. pirated games to run on their consoles.

Sharing hardware schematics, sensitive diagnostic information, tools and security-related reset codes with third parties “would compromise the security of the entire platform” and could adversely affect the economy of the system. Massachusetts, where there are over 80 video game publishers, developers, and computer hardware companies. , he said.

“Every day, millions of Americans enjoy playing video games – me, myself, I’m a gamer – and the continued viability and success of the game console industry depends on a reliable delivery platform. and secure. If platforms are compromised, which we believe will be if this repair right mandate is imposed, it will hurt game publishers, console makers and consumers in a protective and entertaining gaming environment.

During the last session, the joint committee for consumer protection and professional license gave a favorable opinion on the legislation on the digital right to repair (S 107), but the bill never emerged from the Senate Ways and Means Committee during the last eight months of the session.


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