Vermont lawmakers fight for your 'Right to Repair'

Published: Oct. 20, 2018 at 9:11 PM EDT
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It might be hard to believe, but if you try to fix some of your own products, you might have a hard time finding the materials you'd need. That's because companies won't let you have them.

Vermont legislators are now fighting for a "Right to Repair" law that they say will save people time and money.

"Every customer should be for this idea. The only people who aren't are the companies that are behind it trying to get people to buy more stuff and not repair their own," said Jordan Wires, the owner of Wires Computing.

Wires opened his shop about five years ago. He's replaced hundreds of broken screens and has fixed internal issues on cellphones, laptops, drones and other electronics.

"There's not a ton of difference between me and the Apple Store," he said.

Except for one thing. If he tries to get access to parts and schematics to fix your products, he can't. That's because large companies like Apple and Samsung don't sell parts to consumers directly or to repair shops that aren't authorized by the company. That means he has to go through wholesale retailers that offer the same parts or recycle pieces from other electronics that are for salvage.

"One man's trash is another man's treasure. And in my case, it's profit," Wires said.

But it's a hassle. And so he's fighting for his right to repair, which he says will save you money and time, as well as keep electronics out of landfills. It's estimated that 350,000 cellphones are thrown away each day in the U.S., 700 in Vermont alone.

"Manufacturers are not eager to open up this market. It's a part of their scheme to have people replace electronics in particular probably faster than they need to be," said Sen. Chris Pearson, P/D-Chittenden County.

Pearson is the co-chair of a task force looking into "Right to Repair" legislation. But he says a law won't be easy to pass. They're up against patent laws, warranties and lobbyists who argue "Right to Repair" could lead to security concerns.

"The industries aren't just going to say sure, go ahead and do this; they're fighting us," Pearson says.

The task force plans to meet at least two more times before submitting its report to the Legislature.

Around 18 states, including Vermont, are looking at Right to Repair laws. They have already been applied to the auto industry, which is why you can get parts and tools at places other than dealerships.