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Point of View: Proposed bill would hurt consumer protections, risk safety and security

The state Legislature is currently considering HB 1011, which would mandate that electronics manufacturers treat repair shops without proper training or certification the same way as a manufacturer’s authorized repair network. Manufacturers would be required by law to supply unvetted, untrained repair shops with sensitive technical information about thousands of internet-connected devices like appliances, computers, and smartphones. While cast as a pro-consumer effort, House Bill 1011 would actually place consumers more at risk of safety and cybersecurity events, as the legislation contains no protections, requirements or restrictions on who could gain access to sensitive manufacturer or consumer information.

Manufacturers have invested in robust authorized repair networks that enable consumers to get their products fixed while also providing assurance that technicians are properly trained, use genuine parts and are held accountable when they screw up. These established relationships with authorized repair providers include local small businesses, powering a job-creation engine at a time it is needed more than ever. Authorized repair networks ensure that technicians receive the appropriate training from manufacturers and have the qualifications so that repairs are done right.

HB 1011 would completely undercut those efforts without requiring any of the critical consumer protections afforded by authorized repair networks. Should this bill pass, for example, documentation to reset, open and unlock security functions on electronic devices would have to be revealed to anyone who asks.

The safety risks are real. Most electronics are highly integrated products, many of which use lithium-ion batteries. Enabling untrained and unauthorized third parties to open devices to replace lithium-ion batteries without adequate training may result in serious and entirely avoidable injuries.

In January, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a consumer safety warning that rechargeable lithium-ion battery cells, when they are “loose” and not installed in a device or part of an integral battery, are “potentially hazardous to consumers when handled, transported, stored, charged or used to power devices” and “can overheat and experience thermal runway, igniting the cell’s internal materials and forcibly expelling burning contents, resulting in injuries and even death.”

Security risks would also be amplified if HB 1011 passes. Manufacturers work closely with their authorized repair partners because it creates actionable accountability to protect consumers. If a consumer drops off their electronic device at a repair shop, they ought to be granted a reasonable level of security in the unfortunate circumstance that their data is compromised.

Repair mandate bills have been rejected by every state Legislature where they have been filed, as policymakers recognize that the change in law would eliminate manufacturer’s safe, secure, and reliable repair options that their constituents rely upon.

Calling this legislation “right to repair,” after all, is a misnomer. Consumers already own their device and have the right to have it repaired at both independent repair shops or authorized service providers.

Oklahoma citizens deserve repair that is done right. We urge the Legislature to reject HB 1011 and keep consumers’ data safe and secure.

Dustin Brighton is the director of the Repair Done Right Coalition.