National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard Addresses the Right to Repair

Staff report

WASHINGTON – October 25, 2023

In an address delivered today, National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard emphasized the importance of the right to repair, a fundamental principle that ensures individuals can repair their own possessions when they break, or have them fixed by independent repair shops.

The primary motivation for championing the right to repair, as elucidated by Director Brainard, is the considerable impact it can have on the finances of working Americans. By granting consumers the ability to repair their electronic devices, they stand to save an average of $400 annually. Moreover, this right can make a substantial difference for farmers, potentially saving them thousands of dollars when their vital equipment breaks down, while also nurturing the growth of small independent repair shops.

The impediments to the right to repair primarily stem from manufacturers, who often make it challenging to access essential spare parts, manuals, and tools required for repair. This coercion forces consumers to turn to dealers, paying exorbitant prices or opting for the wasteful practice of discarding and replacing devices, which not only incurs costs but also negatively affects independent repair shops and leads to unnecessary waste by reducing the lifespan of these devices.

Research findings suggest that empowering consumers to repair their electronic devices could result in a whopping annual savings of $49.6 billion, substantially reduce the nearly 7 million tons of electronic waste produced in the United States each year, and provide substantial support to small independent repair shops.

Director Brainard underscored that President Biden’s commitment to the right to repair, articulated in his Executive Order on Promoting Competition in July 2021, has catalyzed a growing movement. Federal agencies are now actively working to make repair more accessible and affordable. State legislatures across the nation are passing laws, and influential private sector companies, including Apple and Microsoft, are making voluntary commitments to advance the cause.

Director Brainard was joined by a distinguished group of individuals who have played a crucial role in promoting the right to repair. This includes Chair Khan of the Federal Trade Commission, which unanimously voted to intensify enforcement of right to repair provisions, addressing cases related to grills and motorcycles. Janet McCabe, Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, reaffirmed their support for right to repair, with a focus on farm equipment and environmental protection.

Also present was Tom Perez, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, alongside a bipartisan group of state officials from California, Colorado, New York, and Minnesota, who successfully passed right to repair laws in their respective states. An additional 30 states have introduced right to repair bills, underlining the broad-based support for this critical issue. The Administration is urging other states to follow suit and is calling on Congress to enact national right to repair legislation.

The conference also featured Apple’s endorsement of California’s new right to repair law, which mandates companies to make parts, tools, and documentation accessible to independent repair shops and consumers at fair and reasonable prices. Apple announced its commitment to implementing this nationwide, irrespective of location, and called for the enactment of national right to repair legislation.

Furthermore, the event featured testimonies from Danny Wood, a Colorado farmer, who elucidated how the absence of robust right to repair laws can lead to substantial financial burdens for farmers when their equipment malfunctions. Heather Walch, a small business owner from Minnesota, highlighted the importance of the right to repair in ensuring that independent businesses are not marginalized. Allstate also shared insights on the potential savings for consumers and businesses when utilizing aftermarket parts.

Director Brainard concluded her address by emphasizing that the right to repair is a bipartisan issue that resonates with people nationwide. She then handed the floor over to White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Tom Perez, underscoring the broad support for this critical consumer right.

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