Times-Call (Longmont)

The Columbian on how the right to repair:


For Rep. Marie Gluesenkam­p Perez, a bill she has co-sponsored in Congress is about more than repairing vehicles and refrigerat­ors. It is about repairing our national identity.

“Part of our national heritage is that we can fix things. It’s in our DNA,” the Skamania Democrat told The Columbian. “We used to really own the things we bought — homes, tractors.”

But now, with computer chips being a part of everyday durable goods and with manufactur­ers claiming proprietar­y knowledge, the typical American is out of luck when it comes to fixing things.

“It takes the American consumer from owners to permanent renters,” Perez said. “It hurts the middle class first; it touches every American, whether they know it or not . ... ”

The REPAIR Act, introduced by Rep. Neal Dunn, R-fla., seeks to rectify that. Perez is one of three early co-sponsors of H.R. 906, targeting one of the priorities she listed before taking office.

As Perez explains, computer chips in numerous devices “lock out unauthoriz­ed repair.” In practical terms, that requires vehicle owners to go to a dealer for repairs — stonewalli­ng independen­t repair shops and do-it-yourself mechanics.

The bill would ensure that owners and their repairers of choice have access to necessary tools and informatio­n. As Autobodyne­ws.com puts it, that means “wireless transmissi­on of repair and diagnostic data and access to on-board diagnostic and telematic systems needed to repair a vehicle must be made available to the independen­t repair industry.”

For Perez, the issue hits close to home. She owns a Portland auto repair shop with her husband. Because of that, her sponsorshi­p of the legislatio­n could be viewed as self-serving. Or it could be seen as the benefit of having a representa­tive who works in the trade industry; Perez has seen the issue firsthand.

Either way, Perez’s argument about Americans being able to fix things extends beyond personal interests; it fits in with a growing “right-to-repair” movement that has broad implicatio­ns for consumers . ...

Critics warn that right-to-repair legislatio­n is not a panacea. A study from researcher­s in Singapore and the University of California determined that manufactur­ers might increase new product prices to compensate for future lost repair revenue, and that consumers likely will hang on to low-efficiency products longer.

While there could be unintended consequenc­es, Congress should err on the side of enhanced choices. Giving increased power to the public regarding the repair of automobile­s or washing machines or smartphone­s will help empower and strengthen American consumers.

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