The New York state assembly has passed the United States’ first ever Right to Repair bill covering electronics, 145 to 1. On June 1, the New York State Senate passed their version of the bill in favor 59 to 4. Called the "Fair Repair Act", the measure would require all manufacturers who sell “digital electronic products” within the state borders to make tools, parts, and instructions for repair available to both consumers and independent shops.
Self-repair groups like iFixit have applauded the ruling, calling it “one giant leap for repairkind” in a blog post following the announcement.
New York’s law includes exceptions for home appliances, medical devices and agricultural equipment. According to the text of the law, New York’s attorney general can initiate action against any manufacturer not complying with the regulations.
The new law is likely to have an impact far beyond the borders of New York state. Now that manufacturers selling goods in New York are required to make repair manuals available, it’s likely those manuals will quickly become available around the world. Anti-repair steps taken by the OEMs, for instance the camera no longer functioning after replacing the screen, will also become impractical, which could lead to broad changes in how electronics are designed and maintained.
Requires OEMs to make available, for purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair, to any independent repair provider, or to the owner of digital electronic equipment manufactured by or on behalf of, or sold by, the OEM, on fair and reasonable terms, documentation, parts, and tools, inclusive of any updates to information. Nothing in this section requires an OEM to make available a part if the part is no longer available to the OEM. For equipment that contains an electronic security lock or other security-related function, the OEM shall make available to the owner and to independent repair providers, on fair and reasonable terms, any special documentation, tools, and parts needed to access and reset the lock or function when disabled in the course of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of the equipment. Such documentation, tools, and parts may be made available through appropriate secure release systems.
This bill will protect consumers from the monopolistic practices of digital electronics manufacturers. This legislation will require manufacturers to make non-trade secret diagnostic and repair information available for sale to third party repairers. Nothing prevents third party repairers from being technically competent to complete digital repairs other than the lack of information being withheld by manufacturers.
In too many instances, repairs of digital items are intentionally limited by the manufacturer. Manufacturers will require consumers to pay for repair services exclusively through their repair division or manufacturer authorized repair providers. The practices by manufacturers essentially create a monopoly on these repair services. These limited authorized channels result in inflated, high repair prices, poor service or non-existent service in rural areas and unnecessarily high turnover rates for electronic products. Another concern is the significant amount of electronic waste created by the inability to affordably repair broken electronics. Lack of competition in the digital repair industry creates high costs for consumers, businesses, and government operations, limits used equipment markets and results in the early retirement of equipment with a remaining useful life. This bill will open the digital repair market up to competition and all its consumer, entrepreneurial and environmental benefits.
Governor Hochul still has to sign the bill, who is expected to support the measure. The measure will take effect one year after it passes into law.
Europe is also no stranger to Right to Repair. In March of 2022, the European Parliament voted in favor of making batteries more sustainable including making them removable and replaceable. By January 1, 2024, devices like smartphones and other typical consumer appliances, as well as e-bikes and e-scooters, must be designed such that batteries can be safely removed and replaced using “basic and commonly available tools” and “without causing damage to the appliance or batteries.” Manufacturers must also provide documentation for the removal and replacement procedure. This documentation must also be provided online for the duration of a product’s expected lifetime.
Also, the European Commission launched a consultation on 11 January 2022 on whether it should establish a consumer right to repair for situations which are not covered by the current legal warranty period.
Europe is one of the largest markets in the world, which means that new EU design guidelines and right to repair mandates could force manufacturers across the world to make more durable products. The shift can’t come soon enough.
According to a Eurobarometer survey, 79% of EU citizens think manufacturers should be required to make it easier to repair digital devices or replace their individual parts, and 77% would rather repair their devices than buy new ones. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, with more than 53 million tons discarded in 2019.