New York to get first right-to-repair law for electronics

Hey, big Apple, how'd you like them Big Apples?

Right-to-repair advocates are applauding the passage of New York's Digital Fair Repair Act, which state assembly members approved Friday in a 145–1 vote.

The law bill, previously green-lit by the state senate in a 49-14 vote, now awaits the expected signature of New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D).

Assuming the New York bill becomes law as anticipated, it will be the first US state legislation to address the repairability of electronic devices. A week ago, a similar right-to-repair bill died in California due to industry lobbying.

The pending New York rules require original equipment manufacturers (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."

That is, digital product manufacturers will have to provide independent repair services and consumers with the documentation and parts to fix their products, which benefits the environment by creating less waste and prevents equipment makers from capturing all repair revenue through authorized repair programs. It also reinforces the rights of ownership by enabling those who possess electronic devices to do with them as they see fit, without needing to deal with the product maker or approved agents.

In a missive on Friday, Kyle Wiens, CEO of repair advocacy site iFixit, said the passage of the bill represents a huge win for independent repair shops, which otherwise risk being unable to compete if denied access to parts and documentation on reasonable terms.

"For the rest of us, the passage of this bill means that repairs should become less expensive and more comprehensive: People who want to fix their own stuff can," said Wiens. "And your repair experience should improve even if you’re intimidated by the thought of cracking open your laptop or phone."

The repair experience for those participating in Apple's recently launched self-repair program is not particularly good, according to early adopters, who say the difficulty of doing so allows companies that oppose repairability to appease regulators while dampening consumer enthusiasm for taking things into their own hands.

The Register asked Apple for comment and you know how that goes.

New York's Digital Fair Repair Act does not cover every electronic device. It excludes: motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment (addressed via a national agreement between automakers and repair shops); medical devices; home appliances; public safety equipment; and off-road equipment (e.g. farm machinery).

“Legislators in dozens of states have introduced Right to Repair bills, but New York is the first state to pass a law that covers popular consumer devices such as cell phones," said Nathan Proctor, US Public Interest Research Groups' senior right-to-repair campaign director, in a statement.

"We’ve been close in several other states, only to have manufacturer opposition stall our progress. And we aren’t done yet. We know that farmers also need to fix their tractors, and people need to fix home appliances. We know we can overcome the opposition and win results for people who just want to fix their stuff."

On Thursday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed HB22-1031, which gives people in the state the right to repair electric wheelchairs. ®

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