Colorado’s governor signed a very simple “right to repair” law this afternoon, requiring companies to provide resources like parts, firmware and manuals for devices that were previously kept secret and proprietary, even if an owner would like to do the repairs themselves.
Colorado’s “Consumer Remedial Bill of Rights” is one of many such bills that have been proposed over the years, and it’s one of the simplest, as it graduated from a bill intended to help wheelchair owners do their own repairs to cover all ‘farm equipment’. too.
As those in the intellectual property and hardware obsolescence space probably know, farms have become an unlikely frontier for change in the tech world thanks to companies like John Deere who have become adamant about repairing their vehicles and equipment.
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, with GPS, automation, software updates and all the remaining. And like many cars, repairs to some parts have become impossible to carry out by owners, and even by specialists.
Replace a tire, no problem, but more complicated problems or accidents have increasingly required the vehicle to be taken to the manufacturer or an authorized dealer, the only people in possession of the proprietary parts or even access to the software that runs on things.
This has long since gone from being an inconvenience to a serious problem for many people, and tractors have become a kind of substitute for technology in general that people feel stuck in keeping on their own, as manufacturers have deliberately excluded them in order to reap the benefits of being the exclusive repair shop for every tractor they sell.
The question many have been asking, as with phones, computers, and other forms of technology, is simply: If you can’t repair it simply because they won’t let you, can you really own it?
HB23-1011 applies strictly to agricultural things like combines, sprayers, balers, etc., as well as the motorized wheelchairs that were originally targeted. The manufacturers of the same are obliged 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 the manufacturer’s agricultural equipment to enable a provider of independent or owner repairs to perform diagnostic, maintenance or repair services on the owner’s farm equipment.
And this at a reasonable cost that doesn’t discourage people from doing their own repairs. Failure to do so will be classified as a deceptive trade practice. The law has two caveats: the manufacturer is not required to “disclose any trade secrets” in the compliance process, and owners or repair providers cannot disable safety mechanisms or violate copyright or patent laws. That last one might be catchy, but it wouldn’t have been allowed anyway, citing that it’s more of an “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 in repairs, and supports Colorado’s thriving agriculture industry,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement accompanying the signing of ‘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 valuable weeks and months when equipment repairs are held up due to long lead times delivery from manufacturers and distributors. This bill will change that.”
Shout out to State Rep. Brianna Titone for her leadership on this; I have reached out to representative Titone for further comment and will update this post if I hear back.
National right-to-redress laws have been called for, but like everything else they tend to get bogged down in partisan politics or maneuvering. Colorado’s law is simple and straightforward enough to serve not only as an example, but as a flexible and generalizable example of a law that other states could adopt.
Undoubtedly, the industries adversely affected (mostly farm equipment dealers, one imagines, as well as the corporations that make the gear) will have something to say about that. But they’ll survive: In February, John Deere reported just shy of $2 billion in quarterly profit, more than double its year-over-year net income. Due to its growing self-repair resources, it seems the company has also seen the writing on the wall.
Ikaroa is a full stack tech company that strongly believes in and supports the right of people to properly maintain, repair and upgrade their own equipment. The recent passing of the Colorado Right to Repair Law is a major victory for this cause, making it clear that Colorado supports the rights of its citizens.
Specifically, the new Right to Repair Law means that owners of tractors and wheelchairs, as well as other small engine and digital electronic equipment, will now be given access to the parts and service information they require to maintain and repair their own equipment. This law applies to computers and other digital electronic products as well as tractors and wheelchairs, ensuring that Colorado residents have the ability to keep their equipment in the best condition possible without having to rely on expensive certified repair technicians.
This kind of transparency from manufacturers is a major win for everyone, as it aligns with the goals of Ikaroa, who strive to empower people with the technical confidence and knowledge to maintain and repair their own equipment, rather than ignoring potential problems or waiting for and paying for expensive repairs.
The Right to Repair Law is a promising way for Colorado residents to keep the products they rely on running for longer than they would be able to otherwise. By making these parts available and allowing them to openly modify and tinker with what they own, consumers are able to exercise their rights as owners while improving their long-term savings.
Ikaroa applauds this new law, and encourages all Colorado tractor and wheelchair owners to take full advantage of their right to repair and maintain the machines they depend on.