Bill Would Give Oregonians “Right to Repair” Electronics

Eric Tegethoff | Public News Service
Many electronics manufacturers only allow repairs of their devices by authorized dealers, which is the issue behind the "right-to-repair" movement. Photo Credit: Kumpan Electric / Unsplash

SALEM, Ore. – Advocates for the “right to repair” electronics say a bill in the Oregon Legislature could help families during the pandemic.

House Bill 2698 would require electronics manufacturers to provide independent providers with tools and manuals necessary to repair their devices. Many manufacturers say these tools are intellectual property and only allow authorized retailers to handle repairs.

State Rep. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, said Oregon’s right-to-repair bill has support from both parties.

“Once someone buys the product, they should own it, and they should be able to do whatever they want with it,” she said. “Intentionally limiting access to where and how people can fix what they own means they truly don’t own it.”

Sollman said the bill also would reduce the cost for fixing these products. She said this especially is crucial during the pandemic, when electronics use is up and more necessary than ever to many people’s lives.

According to the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, this bill could save Oregon households up to $330 per year.

When the pandemic began, the Oregon Department of Education found more than 75,000 students were in need of computers for distance learning.

Hilary Shohoney, executive director of Free Geek, a Portland-based nonprofit that repairs and recycles old electronics, said the state’s digital divide was starkly visible at her organization in those early months.

“The tools and, really, the parts were not available to us to repair the devices that we were getting in,” she said. “And so, at the exact same time that the community need really spiked, Free Geek ran into the challenge of not being able to serve as many people as we wanted to, and who truly had the need.”

Supporters say the bill also could help cut down on electronic waste, the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. Lawmakers in 13 other states also are considering right-to-repair legislation.

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