Although Canada and the United States are different in many ways, companies in both countries often share the same challenges. One area that I see a great deal of commonality, and frankly, a shared threat to our businesses, is regarding “right to repair” policies.
Originally pushed by consumer groups to permit customer or third-party repair shops to fix consumer electronics, the issue has morphed into an opportunity to mandate unfettered access to nearly every product that relies on computers or source code to operate. Of course, these days that includes a smartphone and an excavator and everything in between, like a lawnmower, a refrigerator and even a ventilator.
AED, working with a broad coalition of dealer and retail organizations, and OEM’s, has battled right to repair policies in state capitals across America. More recently, the issue has reached the federal level in both Canada and the United States. A bill that effectively would open the door to right to repair policies nearly made it through Canada’s parliament last session. President Biden issued an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission to use its powers to limit the ability of manufacturers to restrict repairs of their products. Legislation was introduced in the U.S. House to require OEMs to make diagnostic and repair information, parts, and tools available to third-party repairers and owners in a timely manner and on “fair and reasonable terms”.
Of course, we already provide to requesting customers parts, diagnostic and repair information, and tools. What we don’t provide, and proponents of right to repair want, is access to source code to modify environmental and safety protections on the equipment. Everyone in the industry has dealt with a chipped or tuned machine, and we all understand the safety and environmental ramifications.
Furthermore, many of these proposals go beyond simply making available just parts and diagnostic tools. In fact, proposals introduced earlier this year in several states open the door to requiring dealers and OEMs to provide equipment owners and third-party repair shops parts at affordable cost. How the government defines “affordable” or “fair and reasonable” could be the difference between our companies being viable or going out of business.
To date, the industry has successfully pushed back against the right to repair proponents, but each year it gets more difficult, as the “little guy” against “big business” narrative becomes more politically popular. However, we as dealers aren’t big business—we’re mostly small-medium-sized family-owned companies, whose business model could be completely altered, not to mention we’ll be spectators as the safety and environmental strides the industry has made over the past decade get thrown by the wayside.
It will be challenging, but working with AED, attending the Washington Fly-In and the Ottawa Parliament Hill Day, we can help ensure that off-road equipment isn’t included in any state, provincial or federal mandate. There are few issues that unite the entire equipment industry, whether in Canada or the United States, whether a distributor or OEM, or whether you sell farm or construction equipment. Together, I’m confident, we can rise to the challenge.