The right-to-repair movement, which says you should be allowed to tinker with things you’ve bought, hasn’t had much success in New Hampshire, or just about anywhere else. Most recently in the Granite State a “digital electronic product repair” bill that would require makers of electronic products to provide independent repair facilities with diagnostic and repair information was sent to interim-study limbo in 2019, after a lot of industry people warned that amateurs would override safety equipment. Here’s how I reported it at the time:
If you want to be terrified about living in your own house, may I suggest you attend a legislative hearing about right-to-repair laws.
If the hearing goes as one did in Concord last week, you will learn from industry representatives that you can be killed or maimed by your smoke alarm (if it fails), your refrigerator (if food spoils because the door-was-left-open alarm doesn’t work), your washing machine (if the lid lock is disabled and you fall inside), your cooking range (if heating controls go awry) and almost anything with a lithium-ion battery.
Two big obstacles presented themselves at the hearing. Tim White, head of the Air Resources Division of the state Department of Environmental Services, expressed concern that releasing software data to owners of lawn tractors and other powered equipment would help them bypass pollution-control devices, which is why the division opposes the bill.
The other big obstacle involves something we usually like: Being first in the nation.
Michael Costable, R-Raymond, wondered how companies would react if New Hampshire passed the bill but few other states went along. The cost or irritation factor of complying with right-to-repair in one small market might be too much: “Would they essentially not sell in New Hampshire?” he wondered.
Down in Massachusetts, TV ads for a right-to-repair referendum that you might have seen from Boston stations have gone one better, however, warning that it could lead to more domestic violence. Here’s a Boston Globe story about over-the-top commercials from all sides of the issue.
The Massachusetts bill is much more focused than the NH proposal. It concerns who gets data from a car’s computer system – information necessary to do repairs. In 2012 voters passed a referendum allowing independent repair shops to plug into a car to help diagnose problems, which is often cited as the most sweeping right-to-repair success the country has seen.
The new referendum, if passed, would require car makers to use open-access systems to wirelessly transmit mechanical data about cars, known as telematics . Those systems monitor and send real-time readings on the vehicle back to the manufacturer and they are increasingly important.
Car makers and dealers oppose the referendum, saying this data contains valuable information that could be used for nefarious purposes, such as determining a spouse’s whereabouts in a domestic violence situation. Proponents say baloney, the only reason to keep it secret is to force people to use manufacturers’ expensive repair service.
There’s big money on side sides, hence the frantic ad push.
If it passes, it might give an incentive to the right-to-repair folks in New Hampshire, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. They would still be facing a long uphill fight.