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Opening Statements

Tenney: “Right to Repair: What it Means for Entrepreneurs.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Business Development held a hybrid hearing on “Right to Repair: What it Means for Entrepreneurs.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Claudia Tenney’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Golden for your remarks. The right to repair is alluring in its simplicity.  In theory, it seems so obvious that if you buy something, you own it and you should have the freedom to do with it what you will.  America is, after all, a nation of thinkers, a nation of innovators, and that freedom to innovate is part of what makes our country great.  From a more practical standpoint, the right to repair has its benefits; no more wasting valuable time and resources waiting for only authorized professionals to repair a product at a fixed price. The right to repair can create a world of consumer choice, resulting in competitive pricing and potential cost savings. 

However attractive the idea may be in theory, as with most things, once you dive into the details, the issue becomes less black and white. There is, in fact, a significant amount of gray when it comes to the right to repair. Years ago, machines were simpler, consisting of nuts, bolts, and other mechanical parts. Today, machines are essentially sophisticated super-computers, able to perform seemingly miraculous feats thanks to delicate and complex electronic components integrated with highly specialized proprietary software. Even with all of the tools and resources at one’s disposal, attempting to self-fix or modify products with electronic components could lead to disastrous results, such as product failure or even worse, serious injury to the consumer. Not only is the safety of the user at risk, but their security as well.  Requiring product manuals and their software to be open sourced risks bad actors tampering with, hacking, and manipulating the product as well as stealing consumers’ private data. 

Looking at the bigger picture, I harbor serious concerns over the potential theft of American manufacturers intellectual property if forced to divulge such information under right to repair laws. We could be practically inviting foreign and potentially hostile entities to steal American innovation out from under us. American manufacturers could be stuck with the bill for the upfront research, development, and production costs only to turn around and have to compete against foreign companies making similar products based off of stolen American IP. This would handicap American manufacturers on the world stage, sending negative ripple effects throughout our economy while at the same time providing a windfall to our global competitors.

The last thing I’ll mention is that we should be mindful of the downstream impacts of the right to repair on consumers and small businesses, not just manufacturers. The right to repair may create new markets where small and independent repair shops could flourish, such as we’ve seen within the automotive industry. However, the right to repair might also harm other small businesses like small dealerships or authorized repair shops that provide products, replacement parts, and professional repair services to its customers. 

In short, the right to repair makes perfect, logical sense, up to a certain point.  Beyond that point, I believe a cautious, measured, and well-informed approach is the correct course of action when considering this idea and my hope and intent today is to engage our esteemed witnesses in such a discussion.  Thank you to our witnesses for your participation today, I look forward to the conversation and I yield back.