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For 100 years, Western nations have upheld “right to repair” laws. Essentially, if a corporation manufactures and sells something, it must also sell parts and share a reasonable amount of knowledge. Lately, the US has grown susceptible to corporate lobbying and is waffling on whether these old laws apply to modern tech. Meanwhile, the European Union is setting an example of what “right to repair” could look like in the 21st century.

For over 100 years, corporations have argued that their latest automobiles or electronics are far too complicated for any individual consumer to repair themselves. They add that leaving them open for anyone besides a dealer tech to repair makes them vulnerable to hacking or theft. Their motivation is the bottom line: If you must return to the original equipment manufacturer for every repair, they make more money. And if they charge enough, you may be more likely to throw away broken products and buy a new one from them instead.

Last year, the U.S. caved and allowed automakers to make the onboard diagnostics recorded when your “check engine” light comes on inaccessible to anyone outside a dealership (more on that below). But the EU has a brilliant alternative.

An automotive technician with a ratchet tightens a bolt beneath a car
Auto mechanic | Gorodenkoff via iStockPhoto

If you need trained service people to repair modern products, why not protect and regulate small repair companies? The EU’s latest right to repair directive does exactly that, protecting consumers’ access to competitively-priced repairs from responsible repair companies.

René Repasi, member of the European Parliament, said “The new legislation extends legal guarantees by 12 months when opting for repair, and gives better access to spare parts.”

The law will even set up an online platform where EU citizens can find trusted repair shops, or sellers of refurbished products. It outlines manufacturer obligations, so those shops can secure parts and schematics to better serve customers. Finally, it holds those shops accountable by forcing them to warranty their work. It also outlines an obligation that OEMs and shops offer work on a broken product, even if the warranty has expired.

The directive’s proponents pitched it as part of Europe’s Green Deal, reducing waste by ensuring it is as easy as possible to have old products repaired. Most lawmakers were in favor of it. Some even argued the Parliament should expand it to address intellectual property rights. Let’s hope the US follows Europe’s example, and fights for consumers’ right to repair the cars and trucks we own.

Next, read how the U.S. is taking away ‘check engine light’ diagnostics for car owners, or learn more about the European Union Parliament’s take on right to repair in the video below:


Biden’s NHTSA Just Killed Your Right to Repair Your Own Truck