Not All Repair Laws Are Built the Same Way

Not All Repair Laws Are Built the Same Way

Quebec has become one of the latest governments to sign a right to repair bill into law. The law, known as “an Act to protect consumers from planned obsolescence and to promote the durability, repairability and maintenance of goods,” amends its Consumer Protection Act to introduce legal warranties for certain new goods, enhance warranties for the availability of replacement parts and repair services, prohibit planned obsolescence, grant access to vehicle data, and increase penalties for violations, among other provisions.

With so many repair-related bills becoming law, it is helpful to understand the mechanisms of how different laws operate—because the laws are different and thus have different consequences. Canada has been an important player in the right to repair world, having considered both right to repair and universal charging ports at the national level. Now its second most populated province has stepped up to the plate with a law that is enacting a number of consumer protections. And while there are many positive signs, we are reminded that not all right to repair laws are built the same.

A man fixes a car in Montreal
DIY car repair in Montreal. Image CC via G Morel on Flickr.

The scope of the Quebec bill is a bit different than the law recently passed in California. Since the law is amending Canada’s existing Consumer Protection Act, it is focused on the warranties and agreements that customers enter into when purchasing products for a particular set of goods.

The bill serves as a new “lemon law” for seriously defective automobiles, giving consumers more recourse for bad car purchases or leases. Interestingly, California’s bill builds on its own “lemon law,” the Song-Beverly Warranty Act, which required manufacturers to make authorized repair services available for a wide range of consumer products.

Quebec’s law also does several really positive things for repair:

  • Bans the practice of planned obsolescence, with a five-year statute of limitations.
  • Prevents long-term lease agreements from requiring that repairs use original manufacturer parts only.
  • Establishes a legal warranty of “good working order” for a wide range of sold and leased goods (which should protect consumers buying refurbished products, especially, though repair advocates have questioned the value of legal warranties). Experts expect that Quebecois law will work to define “good working order” specifically for many of these products, definitions that could be used to build better repair laws in the future.

Nevertheless, there are some troubling loopholes in Quebec’s new law. It expressly allows for companies to “be released from the obligation [of [providing easily accessible replacement parts]… by warning the consumer in writing, before the contract is entered into, that he does not supply the replacement parts, repair services or information necessary to maintain or repair the goods.” Nor does the law get specific on timelines that companies will be required to adhere to when it comes to these warranties.

The Quebecois law doesn’t guarantee any of the same things that the new repair law in California will: That bill focused on making parts, tools, and documentation available for all electronic and appliance products, with a requirement of including parts for a minimum of three years for products from $50-99.99 and seven years for more expensive devices.

That isn’t to say the bill does nothing; there are now financial penalties that can be used to persuade companies to follow the law as each count of violating the law can be over three thousand dollars Canadian. But the gap between these laws shows us how not all repair laws are built the same.

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