Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Farmers, rural technicians fighting for open access to parts, repair information from manufacturers

Farmers and rural technicians are often hampered by an inability to make repairs to technology, farming and medical equipment, because manufacturers are not required to make parts and repair information available to customers and independent repair people, Sarah Breitenbach reports for Stateline. Lobbyists in several states have tried unsuccessfully to require manufacturers "to open access to the manuals, parts, tools, diagnostic equipment and permanent software that is almost exclusively available to their own employees and authorized dealers."

Electronics manufacturers claim that opening access could lead to counterfeiting and liability risks, Breitenbach writes. Supporters of open access disagree. Gay Gordon-Byrne, who heads the Repair Association, a group that advocates for the right of customers to make digital repairs, "said that allowing manufacturers and dealers to retain a monopoly on repair means they can make it hard to fix products and charge so much for repairs that consumers are all but required to buy new devices."

The Repair Association "is asking for a technological about-face," Breitenbach writes. "It essentially wants to go back to a time when manufacturers offered schematic diagrams to help diagnose problems, and corner repair shops could order the parts to fix most household appliances." Gordon-Byrne told Breitenbach, “You knew what was connected to what. If you wanted to take your TV or look at the schematic and say, ‘I think this [part] is fried,’ you could go down to the local TV repair shop and buy a part.”

Farmers say a lack of technicians available in rural areas makes it difficult to get equipment fixed, Breitenbach writes. "The Repair Association—whose members include farmers—says manufacturers are limiting farmers’ ability to fix equipment themselves, adding that a decline in dealers and mechanics in rural areas means farmers often lose valuable time waiting for repairs." Often, a qualified repair shop is more than 100 miles away, said John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. (Read more)

No comments: