Apple-backed California right-to-repair bill just a bite away from governor's signature

This would make the Golden State the third to enact a similar law

The Apple-backed California right-to-repair bill has made its way effortlessly through the state Assembly, and is now just one procedural vote away from heading to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk for signature. 

Once the California Senate approves some amendments to the bill, it'll be on its way to the Governor. If Newsom enacts it, SB244 would make California just the third state after Minnesota and New York to pass right-to-repair laws that cover electronics.

According to the current version of the bill set to go back to the Senate for final approval, any device that costs between $50 and $99.99 will need to have parts available from the manufacturer for three years after production ends, while devices that cost more than $100 will need to have parts available for seven years. The only electronic items exempted from the bill are certain types of industrial equipment, alarm systems, and video game consoles. 

"I'm grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature, the advocates fueling this movement, and the manufacturers that have come along with us to support Californian's Right to Repair. This is a common sense bill that will help small repair shops, give choice to consumers, and protect the environment," California Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, who sponsored this and several previous right to repair bills that were defeated, told The Register.

Caveats aplenty

Along with exempting certain devices, an established norm based on the Minnesota and New York bills, there are plenty of other exceptions.

For example, Apple's much-lauded support for SB244, made last month after it passed the CA Senate, included several caveats that make an appearance in the current version of the bill. Apple conditioned its support on restricting covered devices to those manufactured and sold after July 1, 2021, and restrictions on repair shops being able to disable security features, as well as other language which made it to the current version.

Additionally, as iFixit pointed out in a recent blog post, the California bill does nothing to eliminate the parts pairing that Apple was criticized for when it first made components available for home repair. It also doesn't stop companies from combining parts into expensive multi-component assemblies that make repairs more expensive.

Right-to-repair rules in Minnesota and New York have similar restrictions, with Minnesota's bill exempting agricultural equipment from its list of covered tech, as well as medical devices, another type of hardware frequently cited by right-to-repair advocates as being made deliberately difficult to fix by their manufacturers.

In New York, restrictions to the bill have led to critics' complaining that it's been "watered down" to the point of being more about pleasing lobbyists than consumers. Only devices manufactured after July 1, 2023 are covered by the New York bill, and parts bundling means expensive repair costs, similar to the situation the California bill allows.

Nonetheless, the California bill is a big moment for the right-to-repair movement, said iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens.

"The era of manufacturers' repair monopolies is ending, as well it should be," Wiens said. "We're especially thrilled to see this bill pass in the state where iFixit is headquartered, which also happens to be Big Tech's backyard. Since Right to Repair can pass here, expect it to be on its way to a backyard near you."

The California bill, like Minnesota's, will take effect in July 2024 if Newsom signs it, while New York's new law goes into effect in January. It's not immediately clear if the Governor plans to sign SB244; we've contacted Newsom's office but haven't heard back. ®

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