What does Bill C-272 mean for Canadians?

Why would you ever throw away a device if you had access to affordable and convenient repairs? Unfortunately, affordable and convenient repairs are often not an option. And if you try to DIY your way through a repair, instructions, and parts can be hard to come by. Obviously, no one wants to pay a fortune for basic damage control. This dynamic means that for many consumers, buying a new device is often an easier option than repairing it.

Manufacturers can limit access to repairs by supplying only a few retailers with the components, repair guides, or access to software source codes. This leaves customers with zero to limited access to affordable, convenient repairs.

While attempting to fix a range of digital devices, Canadians encounter liability risks – and their number continues to grow. Bill C-272 recommended updating Canada's Copyright Act to give Canadians more flexibility in repairing their devices. We have talked about Bill C-272 in an earlier article on the fight for your right to repair.

In this article:

What is Bill C-272?

On June 2, Canada's Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill C-272 on the second reading (330 – 0). Bryan May, Member of Parliament for Cambridge and bill sponsor, has long advocated for stronger right-to-repair laws. The bill aims to restrict the use of so-called technological protection measures, or digital locks, to prevent device repairs. May cited manufacturers disabling items such as tractors or video gaming consoles in order to compel owners to hire qualified technicians.

Origin and Basis of Bill C-272

Bill C-272 was submitted for first reading in February of this year and has progressed through the normal legislative procedure. It has gained overwhelming support across party lines in subsequent debates and talks among lawmakers, bridging the rural-urban divide. Despite his government's present minority position and lawmakers' traditional inclination to politicize reform initiatives in such circumstances, May's bill has been strikingly uncontroversial and above regular partisanship.

Bryan May, the MP who proposed the bill, explained in a phone interview the growing difficulties around the right to repair. He said, "Right now we have things like smart TVs, and obviously cell phones, computer devices where this is a problem."

Implications for Consumers

Electronics are increasingly important in our daily lives. The limited availability of cheap options for people to fix their gadgets has sparked concern among politicians and activists in Canada and other nations. The existing lack of competition in the repair sector, combined with the environmentally unwise culture of disposability, are among the key issues. Aside from the volume of garbage produced, there are dangerous compounds like mercury that can be found in disposed of electronics

Conversely, Allen Mendelsohn, a sessional lecturer in the law department at McGill University who studies internet and tech law, said the bill takes a "minimalist" approach, removing copyright liability for anyone who seeks to tamper with or fix their gadgets. "It's not a true right to repair," he explains.

Right to Repair & Bill C-272

The "right to repair" campaign is a tiny step toward strengthening corporate accountability and helping to reverse society's growing ‘disposability’ culture. It arose from customer complaints about the restrictions that hinder them from mending their electronic devices and household appliances. You can learn more about the basics on our blog about the Right to Repair movement.

C-272 is one component of a right-to-repair framework, but more work has to be done at the provincial level to guarantee that more right-to-repair mechanisms are in place, enforced, and legalized. There is a lot for provinces to do, such as making repair manuals and methods available, providing spare parts and tools, and ensuring manufacturers do not design products that are unrepairable by design.

Right to Repair is a major movement in Canada, and Bill C-272 is proof of this. Though further reforms would be required to truly grant Canadians the Right to Repair, this legislation might be the nudge that sets in motion a series of improvements.

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Eric Smith
Right To Repair Advocate
A DIY geek, Eric combines his passion for automobiles and his deep engagement with right to repair issues to empower vehicle owners everywhere.