Senate passes ‘right to repair’ bill on fixing electronics

The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would give consumers more options to repair their home appliances and electronic devices. 

The Senate voted 25-5 to pass Senate Bill 1596, a “right to repair” proposal aimed at widening consumer choice and lowering the costs of repairing electronic gear from laptops to smartphones and other devices that have a computer chip. The bill still needs to be passed by the House to go to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk.

The bill, shepherded by Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, would require manufacturers to offer tools, parts, devices and documentation needed to repair electronic devices at a “fair cost” and on “reasonable” terms. This means the bill would allow consumers to go to independent repair shops – or fix the devices themselves – instead of the manufacturer limiting where they could go, potentially for a more expensive price. 

Sollman has fought for the passage of a right to repair bill since 2021. After the vote, Sollman said she was pleased to see the wide margin of support and the willingness of most major technology companies to remain neutral. 

The Oregon Business & Industry, which represents about 1,600 businesses, as well as Intel, Amazon and Microsoft, are neutral. But Apple opposes the  bill. 

“The momentum was there,” Sollman said. “This has been a bill that has been worked on for so long.”

Charlie Fisher, Oregon director of OSPIRG, a statewide public interest group, said the vote reflects work unfolding in other states. 

“It’s a bipartisan issue,” Fisher said. “It’s about helping consumers across the state. There’s momentum both in Oregon and across the country for  (the) right to repair.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support and Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who signed on as a sponsor. In the vote, five Republicans were opposed: Sens. Tim Knopp, Daniel Bonham, Cedric Hayden, Dennis Linthicum and Art Robinson. 

On the Senate floor, Bonham said the bill’s description of “fair” and “reasonable” for costs is open-ended and suggested the question would end up in the courts. 

“I doubt we could come to a consensus on what is fair and reasonable,” he said, adding he doesn’t like leaving that up to the courts.

Bonham also said he cannot support the bill because it would force manufacturers to have business relationships with repair providers, regardless of whether they want to do so.

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Ben Botkin - Oregon Capital Chronicle

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. He has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.