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HomeUncategorizedE-Bike Industry Blames Consumers for Fires to Undermine Right to Repair Laws

E-Bike Industry Blames Consumers for Fires to Undermine Right to Repair Laws

from the fix-your-own-shit dept

Mon, Aug 28th 2023 05:29am –

Karl Bode

Countless companies and industries enjoy making up scary stories when it comes to justifying their opposition to making it easier to repair your own tech. Apple claims that empowering consumers and bolstering independent repair shops will turn states into “hacker meccas.” The car industry insists that making it easier and cheaper to repair modern cars will be a boon to sexual predators.

Throughout the arguments is routinely peppered a single theme: providing easier and cheaper repair options to consumers is simply too dangerous to be considered. It apparently doesn’t matter that an FTC study recently found those claims to be self-serving bullshit designed to protect harmful repair monopolies from reform and lost repair revenue.

That right to repair is simply too dangerous to embrace is also apparently the argument being made by the growing E-Bike sector. People for Bikes, the national trade org representing bicycle manufacturers, has been reaching out to lawmakers urging them to exempt bicycles from all right to repair legislation. Successfully, as it turns out.

You might recall that New York recently passed a right to repair law that was immediately watered down by NY Governor Kathy Hochul. The bill already exempted key industries where repair monopolization is a problem, such as cars, home appliances, farm equipment, and medical gear. Unsatisfied, numerous industries got Hochul to water the bill down even further.

A report at Grist notes this included weakening the bill on behest of the bike industry, which in a letter to lawmakers tried to place the onus for now common e-bike fires on consumers:

In a letter sent to New York Governor Kathy Hochul in December, People for Bikes asked that e-bikes be excluded from the state’s forthcoming digital right-to-repair law, which granted consumers the right to fix a wide range of electronic devices. The letter cited “an unfortunate increase in fires, injuries and deaths attributable to personal e-mobility devices” including e-bikes. Many of these fires, People for Bikes claimed in the letter, “appear to be caused by consumers and others attempting to service these devices themselves,” including tinkering with the batteries at home.

This of course is an industry whose products are already often unreliable and dangerous on their own; there’s been just endless examples of deadly fires caused by shoddy products and unreliable batteries. Most of these fires have absolutely nothing to do with consumers making repair mistakes. When pressed for evidence, the organization claimed the statement was “anecdotal”:

Asked for data to back up the claim that e-bike fires were being caused by unauthorized repairs, Lovell said that it was “anecdotal, from folks that are on the ground in New York.”

How very truth-esque.

As e-bikes get more complicated, it’s obviously more important than ever to ensure that repairing those bikes is affordable. Activists note that to create a sustainable, environmentally responsible industry with satisfied customers, the bike industry needs to do a much better job designing its bikes to be repairable, standardizing parts, and making it easier for consumers to access manuals and tools:

“There’s huge interest” in fixing e-bikes, said Kyle Wiens, CEO of the online repair guide site iFixit. But outside of manufacturers and specialized shops, “no one knows how.”

New York’s original law could have gone a long way in fixing that, but lawmakers were intent on undermining their own legislation after hearing scary, often false stories by self-serving industries. Minnesota recently passed its own right to repair law, and while also watered down to exclude cars, medical equipment, and game consoles, it did at least manage to include e-bikes.

Filed Under: bicycles, bike shops, blame, consumers, e-bikes, freedom to tinker, repair monopolies, repair shops, right to repair

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