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New York gets right-to-repair law – after some industry-friendly repairs to the rules

We can already imagine Louis R's reaction

Video New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) has approved a comprehensive right-to-repair law for tech products – the first of its kind for a US state – though not before some changes were made to the fine print.

The Empire State's Digital Fair Repair Act, giving owners of some tech gadgets – and independent repair shops – the right to obtain and install replacement parts, was passed with overwhelming majorities by the state legislature in June and was sent for Governor Hochul's signature.

Specifically, the law requires manufacturers to reasonably provide documentation, diagrams, parts, and tools for consumer electronics sold in New York to device owners and repair shops so that they can diagnose and fix their broken stuff by themselves.

The goal is to prevent people from being gouged by expensive fixes or replacements, and reduce e-waste by saving electronics from the trash with repairs.

Gov Hochul finally signed off on the bill on Wednesday, though the final text has been edited. These types of changes are called chapter amendments, which are supposed to streamline and smooth the legislative process in New York. Rather than ping-pong a bill back and forth between lawmakers and the governor when there are disagreements over the wording, chapter amendments can be negotiated and made at a late stage that all sides ultimately say they will agree on.

The result here is a watered-down law that will likely cheer up industry lobbyists.

As it now stands, the law will only apply to devices sold after July 1, 2023 – so you can't automatically get parts for that laptop or phone in your hands today. In addition, manufacturers can bundle together components – so you may end up being offered a large bag of parts rather than individual pieces – and people won't be allowed to bypass device security mechanisms.


Right to repair shouldn't exist – not because it's wrong but because it's so obviously right


"The governor's changes definitely made the bill worse," Kyle Wiens, CEO of repair org iFixit told The Register on Thursday.

"The governor was lobbied heavily by TechNet, and capitulated to much of what they wanted. But we are so much better off than we were before: mandatory parts and repair information requirements, circuit schematics, and more. I expect other states to pick up and fill in the gaps in the legislation left by the governor."

Others were less diplomatic. Right-to-repair activist and repair shop owner Louis Rossmann posted a review of the revised legislation, saying the bill "got f**ked." You can see his analysis of the fine print below – warning: NSFW language. 

Youtube Video

So where does this leave the right-to-repair campaign? Well, it's a case of two steps forward and one step back, though the momentum to allow people who shelled out for tech equipment to actually repair it is growing, with the FTC and Europeans taking steps to push legislation forward despite industry pushback.

"As technology and smart devices become increasingly essential to our daily lives, consumers should be able to easily fix the devices they rely on in a timely fashion," Governor Hochul said in a canned statement.

"This legislation will empower consumers with better options to repair their devices, thereby maximizing the lifespan of their devices, saving money, and reducing electronic waste." ®

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