Colorado’s new right-to-repair law ensures tractor and wheelchair owners get the parts they need

The governor of Colorado this afternoon signed into law a refreshingly straightforward “right to repair” bill, which requires companies to provide resources like parts, firmware, and manuals for devices they previously kept secret and owned, even if the owner wanted to. do the repairs themselves.

Colorado’s “Consumer Redress Rights Act” is one of many bills that have been proposed over the years, and it is among the simplest, having graduated from a bill intended to help wheelchair owners do their own repairs to cover all “farm equipment”. also.

As those in the hardware obsolescence and intellectual property space probably know, farms have become an unlikely frontier for change in the tech world as companies like John Deere become adamant about repairing their equipment. vehicles and devices.

A tractor, in these days of precision farming, is of course more than just a replacement for a pair of oxen: it’s as high-tech as any modern car, complete with GPS, automation, software updates and all. And like many cars, repairs to some parts have become impossible for owners, and increasingly, even specialists.

Replacing a tire, no problem, but more complicated problems or accidents have increasingly required the vehicle to be taken to the manufacturer or an authorized agent, the only people in possession of the proprietary parts or even access to the software running on the tires. things.

This has long since gone from being an inconvenience to a serious problem for many people, and tractors have become something of a stand-in for technology in general that people feel they can’t maintain for themselves, as the manufacturers they have deliberately excluded them to reap the benefits. benefits of being the exclusive repair shop for each tractor they sell.

The question many have asked, as with phones, computers, and other forms of technology, is simple: if you can’t fix it simply because they won’t let you, can you really say you have it?

HB23-1011 strictly applies to agricultural things like harvesters, sprayers, balers, etc., as well as electric wheelchairs which were its original target. Their manufacturers are required to provide:

provide parts, embedded software, firmware, tools, or documentation, such as diagnostic, maintenance, or repair manuals, diagrams, or similar information (resources), to independent repair providers and owners of manufacturer farm equipment to enable an independent repair provider or owner to perform diagnostic, maintenance or repair services on the owner’s farm equipment.

And this at a reasonable cost that does not discourage people from doing their own repairs. Otherwise, it will be classified as a deceptive business practice. The law has two caveats: the manufacturer is not required to “disclose any trade secrets” in the enforcement process, and owners or repair providers cannot disable security mechanisms or violate copyright or patent laws. That last one can be tricky, but it wouldn’t have been allowed anyway, mentioning that it’s more of an “and just so you know” rather than a legal ban.

“I am proud to sign this important bipartisan legislation that saves hard-working farmers and ranchers time and money on repairs, and supports Colorado’s thriving agricultural industry,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said in a statement accompanying the bill. sign this and other bills today. “This is a common sense, bipartisan bill to help people avoid unnecessary delays in equipment repairs. Farmers and ranchers can lose precious weeks and months when equipment repairs stall due to long lead times from manufacturers and distributors. This bill will change that.”

He calls out state representative Brianna Titone for her leadership on this; I have reached out to the Titone representative for further feedback and will update this post if I hear back.

There have been calls for right-to-redress laws across the country, but like everything else, they tend to get bogged down in partisan politics or maneuvering. Colorado’s law is straightforward and simple enough to serve as not just an example, but a flexible and generalizable example of a law that other states could adopt.

No doubt the industries adversely affected (mostly farm equipment dealers, one would imagine, as well as the corporations that make the equipment) will have a say in the matter. But they will survive: In February, John Deere reported just $2 billion in quarterly profit, more than double its year-over-year net income. Starting with its growing self-repair resources, the company seems to have seen the writing on the wall, too.

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