Statement of the Hon. Jared Golden on Right to Repair and What it Means for Entrepreneurs
Washington, September 13, 2022
Advances in technology have created countless benefits for small businesses and consumers. Today, entrepreneurs can sell their offerings globally and customers have more access to the products and services they want than ever.
At the same time, increased technological adoption has created unintended consequences that are harming entrepreneurs, particularly in rural communities like the one I represent.
Since the 1990s, consumer electronics, automobiles, and a variety of other products have become more complicated to fix and maintain. Large manufacturers and corporations have increasingly moved to limit the ability of consumers and independent, small businesses to make repairs on a range of essential products. These repair restrictions impact small firms across various industries, often increasing their costs and sometimes upending their business models.
In a 2021 report to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission outlined numerous ways that manufacturers inhibit the ability to make repairs on everyday products like mobile phones, automobiles, agricultural machinery, and medical equipment.
These methods range from making products physically harder to open to requiring access to proprietary diagnostic software to initiate even minor repairs. These practices frustrate consumers by forcing them to go to manufacturers for repair or to replace their products entirely. Repair restrictions also negatively impact small firms by raising costs and limiting repair options for small businesses that depend on machinery.
Take, for example, small independent farmers. For generations, small farmers have been able to make repairs on the spot and continue working when a tractor or other piece of equipment breaks down. Yet, today, a modern tractor can come equipped with hundreds of censors. A malfunction in just one censor can cause an entire machine to stop working and force a farmer to stop their harvest to haul equipment to a dealership hours away or wait for a field technician. I’ve heard firsthand from Maine farmers that these burdensome delays can cost small farms days in wasted productivity and thousands of dollars in revenue.
But these restrictions don’t just impact entrepreneurs that use machinery; they also hurt the many independent businesses that work to repair these products.
Independent repair shops frequently offer lower prices and better service than large manufacturers. For instance, in the medical equipment sector, independent servicers can work on equipment for $150-$250 an hour, while large manufacturers can charge $500-$600 per hour with a four-hour minimum.
Decades of evidence have made it clear that repair restrictions raise costs, hurt small businesses, and encourage waste while paddng large corporations’ pockets.
Given these adverse effects, the proliferation of restrictions must be addressed. That’s why we must explore common-sense and bipartisan right to repair laws that protect consumers and small businesses. Several of my colleagues have already introduced proposals to restrict the ability of large companies to monopolize repair and aftermarket products.
Today, I want to take a closer look at actions Congress can take to ensure the right to repair for small businesses, independent repair shops, and consumers.