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Morelle's 'Right to Repair' bill would ease tech companies' hold on consumers

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U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle has introduced a bill intended to protect consumers from being trapped into high repair costs by manufacturers of cellphones, laptop computers, and other products.

The so-called "Right to Repair" legislation would require companies to make their repair instructions, parts, and tools available to consumers and third-party repair shops.

The Irondequoit Democrat says it has been assumed for centuries that when you purchase a product, you own it and have the right to repair it when it breaks. 

But in recent years, some manufacturers of everything from consumer electronics to farm equipment have embedded technologies that make it almost impossible to repair by anyone other than an authorized dealer.

Morelle says that can be costly and even cost-prohibitive.

"In some cases," he says, "it's less expensive to buy new equipment. Well, that's not the way it's supposed to be. If you own it, you should be able to repair it."

The proposed legislation would offer consumers more options by forcing companies to make diagnostic codes, parts, and tools readily available to consumers and third-party repair shops.

Morelle says there's a good precedent for the practice: Automotive manufacturers share their diagnostics and tools with local repair and service stations.

"Automobiles are very complicated machines now," he adds. "They have hundreds, if not thousands, of sensors built into them, so if it can work in the automotive industry, which it has for many years, it can work in other industries as well."

Tech companies such as Apple have claimed that limiting access to repair information allows them to protect their intellectual property, but a Federal Trade Commission report sent to Congress in May shot down that argument.

The New York State Senate this year passed a measure similar to Morelle's bill, but he says it makes sense to have legislation on the federal level to avoid a patchwork of rules and regulations from state to state.

Click on the LISTEN link above to hear an interview with Morelle.