Right-to-repair laws have potential downsides for consumers and the environment
The “right-to-repair” movement scored a major victory last month when New York State passed the first law requiring companies that make digital electronic products to give the public access to repair instructions, tools, and parts.
The goal was to make it easier and cheaper for consumers to fix their gadgets, and to break manufacturers’ monopolies on the repair market, allowing independent repair shops to compete.
Yet despite a groundswell of support from consumer and environmental groups, right-to-repair laws may have unintended consequences, according to new Berkeley Haas research. The result could be higher prices, more e-waste, or longer-term use of older energy-guzzling products.
“Strikingly, (right-to-repair) legislation can potentially lead to a ‘lose-lose-lose’ outcome that compromises manufacturer profit, reduces consumer surplus, and increases the environmental impact, despite repair being made easier and more affordable,” according study co-author Luyi Yang, assistant professor of operations and IT management at Berkeley Haas.
The paper, published in the journal Management Science, is the first to examine the pricing, environmental, and consumer implications of the growing international movement known as the right-to-repair. It offers insights for policymakers working to craft such legislation.