IGEA, AMTA, and John Deere use intellectual property arguments to bash right to repair

IGEA, AMTA, and John Deere argue changes to improve right to repair would cause confusion, expose consumers to potential harm, and hurt innovation.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), and machinery manufacturer John Deere have once again pushed back on the proposal that any right to repair changes need to be introduced in Australia.

In its response to the Productivity Commission's right-to-repair draft report, IGEA knocked back support for several of the recommendations that were put forward. These include enabling the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop and publish estimates of the minimum expected durability for products, such as video game consoles and devices, and requiring manufacturers to include additional mandatory warranty text that state entitlements to consumer guarantees under Australian Consumer Law (ACL) do not require consumers to use authorised repair services or spare parts.

It repeatedly cited in its latest submission [PDF] that making changes would "cause confusion for consumers", pointing out for instance that additional text may "erroneously cause consumers to believe that their entitlements under the voluntary warranty (as opposed to the guarantees) do not require consumers to use authorised repair services or spare parts (which may not necessarily be true)".

As part of providing additional information to the Productivity Commission, IGEA added that if manufacturers were required to make additional repair information available where they could bypass Trusted Platform Modules, it would open up the potential for the information to be "weaponised" by malicious actors, particularly as there are no licensing or certification schemes for electronic repairers that would help manufacturers discern between legitimate and illegitimate repairers.

"For example, these tools could be used to facilitate intellectual property infringement, such as by removing copyright protections on a device, or to access confidential data, such as by bypassing lock screens to copy a user's personal information," IGEA said.

IGEA also took the opportunity to defend video game console manufacturers saying that it is in the "financial interest" of console makers that customers have "well-functioning and reliable devices that last for years".

"As we noted, our members that make consoles have advised us that they are not aware of any evidence that the existing consumer guarantees regarding repairs are ineffective, nor of any non-compliance in our sector, nor that customers face difficulties in obtaining repairs," it said.

Similar remarks were made by AMTA, which used its submission [PDF] in response to the draft recommendations to warn that any further regulation of repair, beyond the ACL, would be "confusing for consumers and could potentially jeopardise consumer privacy, health and safety, as well as create issues for cybersecurity and intellectual property rights".

AMTA also noted that it supported the ability for consumers to have their products repaired, so as long as it was carried out by an authorised third-party.

"AMTA members do not prevent third-party repairers from carrying our repairs. We encourage repair as it extends the lifecycle of the device for the consumer," it said.

It also argued that if the current copyright laws were amended so that repair manuals could be copied and shared, it could compromise the security and privacy of users, as well as reduce the lifespan of products.

"Manufacturers want to ensure that mobile phones are serviced and repaired by professionals. There could be serious health risks if mobile phones are not safely repaired," AMTA said.

"For example, there is a risk of catastrophic damage to products due to electro static discharge (ESD) if devices are not repaired in an ESD safe environment as all components and boards have a certain tolerance to ESD.

"If repairs or the repairer is not ESD compliant this can result in severe damage to the product or shorten the lifespan of the device. Similarly, if some components, such as batteries, are not handled carefully there can be health risks to the repairer or customer."

For John Deere, its biggest concern was that any proposed changes to copyright and intellectual property laws could hurt investment and innovation.

"Businesses are more likely to invest, and lenders provide funding for technology and innovation when they have confidence in the protections offered by robust copyright and intellectual property regulations," the manufacturer wrote in its submission [PDF].

"Many of the productivity and performance gains that have been delivered to customers and the agricultural industry are a direct result of businesses willing to invest in the necessary R&D and technology knowing this investment is protected.

"As an example, John Deere's See & Spray offers revolutionary technology to reduce costs and environmental impact of chemical use and improve yields. Such innovation would not be possible without protections from third-party access to trade secrets and software code."

The Productivity Commission is due to present its final report on the right to repair to government on 29 October 2021. 

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