The fight for the right to repair won a huge victory on Friday with the death of New York State a bill This forces manufacturers of digital electronics, such as laptop and smartphone makers, to make diagnostic and repair information available to consumers and independent repair shops.
The bill, which passed the New York Senate (49 to 14) on Wednesday and the Assembly (145 to 1) today, enacts the Digital Fair Repair Act. Governor Kathy Hochul must sign the bill before it becomes law, but advocates, like iFixit, said they don’t expect any hurdles there.
Notably, the bill does not affect medical devices, household appliances, agricultural and off-road equipment, or public safety communications equipment. However, right to repair advocates have their eye on these areas as well. The bill also does not cover motor vehicles.
Companies selling technology products in New York that are covered will be forced to distribute information, software, tools and parts so that individuals and independent repair shops can repair their personal devices themselves. iFixit said it expects this to come into effect by 2023.
Specifically, the bill says:
“Requires OEMs to make available, for diagnostic, maintenance, or repair purposes, to any independent repair provider or 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, including any information updates Nothing in this section obligates an OEM to make a part available if the part is no longer available. For equipment that contains an electronic security lock or other related safety-function device, the OEM shall make available to the owner and independent repairers, on fair and reasonable terms, any special documentation , tools, and parts necessary to access and reset the lock or function when disabled as part of equipment diagnosis, maintenance, or repair. Such documentation, tools and parts may be made available through appropriate secure release systems.”
Combat “monopolistic practices”
The bill has successfully argued that it will help protect against “monopolistic practices by digital electronics manufacturers” caused by the withholding of repair and diagnostic information. This has forced consumers to rely on product manufacturers and their authorized repairers. According to a blog post by Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, Today, 59% of independent repair shops in California recently expressed fear of closing without the right to repair.
“Nothing prevents third-party repairers from being technically competent to perform digital repairs other than lack of information withheld by manufacturers,” the bill states. “In too many cases, repairs to digital items are intentionally limited by the manufacturer.”
The bill also lists “inflated and high repair prices, poor or nonexistent service in rural areas, and unnecessarily high turnover rates for electronics” as justification for the legislation.
E-waste was also a driver of the bill, as well as the general fight for the right to repair. In a statement, New York Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy said the bill would “help reduce the 655,000 tons of toxic electronic waste produced [and] typically discarded in a single calendar year here in New York State.”
In his announcementthe New York State Assembly pointed to a study by the US public interest group finding that the average New York family would save about $330 a year and reduce e-waste by 22% with the right to repair.
Beyond the Empire State
While right to repair advocates have won a notable victory, there is much more legislation needed before the right expands across the country and product categories.
In his blog on Friday, iFixit’s Wiens highlighted the impact the passage of the law is expected to have around the world. For one thing, the executive hopes manufacturers will make repair manuals available to everyone, not just New Yorkers.
Wiens also expressed hope that the software protections will spread outside of New York.
“New York law includes provisions for resetting software locks that some manufacturers use to tie parts to the motherboard or device serial number. Manufacturers will need to find a way to make reset tools matching publicly available parts.This is a huge boon for repair, but it also helps the refurbishing industry: many refurbishers salvage parts from old devices, which is impossible when these devices have parts coupled to the motherboard,” Wiens said, noting related infrastructure challenges faced by vendors.
Ars recently spoke with Wiens, who discussed the biggest challenges and events in the fight for the right to repair, including the need for federal involvement. You can check out our Right to Repair interview with iFixit’s CEO here.