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Minnesota Could Be The First State To Pass A 'Right To Repair' Bill

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota is closer than ever to becoming the first state to pass a "right to repair" bill, which would give independent repair shops access to fix electronics.

Currently, consumers who have issues with devices ranging from smartphones to high-tech tractors can only bring broken devices to an authorized dealer, who will diagnose the problem, order parts and presumably fix it. Independent repair shops see that as unfair, saying it hurts their business as well as the consumers' pocketbook.

"When there [are] only one or two places you can go to get your iPhone screen repaired, [manufacturers] have a lot of power to charge whatever they want," said Amanda LaGrance, CEO of Tech Dump. LaGrange has fought for right to repair for the past five years.

She owns the Northeast Minneapolis business responsible for recycling and refurbishing electronics. Right now, LaGrange's only access to replacement parts is by what she calls "Frankensteining," or taking the good parts from recycled devices and making refurbished ones.

With right to repair, Tech Dump and similar businesses could buy the hardware and software necessary for the fix directly from the manufacturer, adding choice to the market.

"And the consumer can also access more refurbished electronics, which by their nature have a lower cost," LaGrange said.

The several groups against right to repair argue independent repair shops are not always trustworthy to fix their products, saying rogue repairs would hurt the companies' image. They also aren't comfortable sharing the copyright-protected software necessary to make some of the repairs.

Companies taking their concerns to Minnesota lawmakers include Apple and John Deere.

Apple did not immediately respond to WCCO's request for comment, but John Deere gave further context into the harm they believe right to repair would cause if passed in Minnesota.

A John Deere spokesperson said the parts, diagnostic and manuals are already available to its owners, and that customers can contact a dealer where "trained technicians provide expertise and assistance with service issues in the shop or, in many cases, remotely in the field."

It stands by the general opposition to release software to the masses, citing the software's purpose to make sure equipment runs safely, properly, and up to changing standards. Other companies also argue intellectual property should be protected.

The right to repair bill passed through committee and waits a vote in the Minnesota House. If passed, it would be the first state to make right to repair law, effective January 2020.

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