right to repair

The Right to Repair Act: Empowering Consumers and Shaping the Appliance Industry

Written By: Darin Williams, Reliable Appliance
Article originally published in The Retail Observer

With ever more states passing legislation in favor of The Right to Repair Act, the effects on the appliance industry are an increasingly frequent topic. Already in 2024, 27 states fall under some form of the legislation, and many more are expected to follow by year’s end. While the original guidelines have remained the same, each state has adopted its own version of the act with heavy impacts on key industries. And with consumer accessibility of growing interest, the question is: How will it all affect the servicers and the industry?

The Repair Act aims to empower consumers by granting them access to manuals, parts, and tools for fixing their own appliances. In theory, the act challenges the hold that manufacturers have on repairs, and fosters competition and sustainability.

The roots of the act can be traced to a frustration among consumers and independent repair businesses that aren’t factory authorized. Manufacturers have tightly controlled the repair process, making it difficult for consumers to fix their appliances or seek third-party repairs. The control extends to withholding manuals and diagnostic tools, and restricting parts to authorized technicians.

Proponents of the act argue that these practices limit consumer and contribute to electronic waste – consumers who can’t repair their appliances are likely to discard them or buy new ones. An open repair ecosystem could extend the lifespan of appliances, reduce waste, and lower consumer costs.

The appliance industry has raised several objections to the act. Manufacturers argue that access to repair manuals and parts could compromise safety and intellectual property. They express concerns about substandard repairs performed by owners leading to safety hazards and liability issues.

Opponents contend that the act could undermine research and development. Manufacturers argue that revenue from repairs and parts is essential to fund product development and maintain quality. They fear that access to repair information could diminish their incentive to create more innovative and durable products.

Independent servicers also view the act as a threat since many consumers will no longer hire a professional. At the same time, the use of after-market parts will drive down the perceived value of an appliance repair when professionals must continue to quote at industry-standard rates. Servicers also share manufacturers’ safety concerns about substandard repairs and liabilities.

Regardless of the pros and cons, the Right to Repair Act is bound to reshape the appliance industry. Still, there is a strong chance that independent repair businesses could thrive in an open repair ecosystem by offering consumers more choices for affordable and convenient repairs. With access to standardized repair manuals and components, the aftermarket parts industry could develop a wider range of replacement parts, leading to better quality and innovation. This increased competition could also drive manufacturers to improve the repairability of their products and to design appliances with longevity in mind. More affordable replacement costs could benefit not only the consumer but the servicer as well.

The Right to Repair Act represents a significant shift in the relationship between consumers and the appliance industry. By granting consumers greater autonomy, it promotes sustainability, consumer choice, and a more competitive marketplace. While challenges will remain, the growing support for the Right to Repair Act signals an uncertain but potentially promising future where repairing appliances will not only be a right but a practical, environmentally responsible choice. By embracing repairability, transparency, and consumer empowerment, the appliance industry can not only reduce its environmental footprint, but build trust and loyalty among consumers.

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