This week, the New York state legislature went on to pass the Fair Repair Act, the first ‘right to repair’ bill of the United States covering electronics. Essentially, this measure would require every manufacturer who sells ‘digital electronic products’ within state borders to produce parts, tools and instructions. This would be for repairs which would be available to both independent stores and consumers.
As it passes the legislature, it currently awaits signature by Governor Kathy Hochul, who it expects to support the step. This measure is set to take effect a year following it passing into law. In a blog post after this announcement, self-repair groups such as iFixit visibly applauded this ruling, referring to it as ‘one giant leap for repair kind.’
The post noted how the ‘passage of this bill’ indicated how repairs should go on to be ‘less expensive and more comprehensive,’ where consumers wanting to repair their devices can do so. Moreover, it noted how all this while manufacturers could compel people to utilise manufacturer authorised stores, and clearly from now ‘they’ll have to compete.’
The passage of this bill means that repairs should become less expensive and more comprehensive: people who want to fix their own stuff can.”
Notably, this step comes following sustained federal pressure targeted at enforcing rights of consumers to repair and refurbish the devices they buy, In 2021, President Joe Biden went on to issue an executive order turning to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to establish repair rights. Particularly, the incoming majority commissioners applauded this move from the president.
Though New York state is not the first one to pass such a right to repair bill, the bill is the first of its kind to broadly apply to electronics. Previously, a Massachusetts law mainly focused on automobile data, along with Colorado passing a bill earlier this year which ensured rights for the repair of powered wheelchairs.
Moreover, the wording of this particular bill from New York notably includes exceptions for agricultural equipment, medical devices and home appliances. The exception of agricultural equipment has clearly been a significant flash point for advocates.
Nevertheless, the law would still have an impact way over the borders of the of New York. Currently, as manufacturers selling goods in the state are needed to make repair manuals available, these manuals are expected to soon become available everywhere else. Additionally, more invasive software measures would go on to become impractical, leading to significant changes in the design and maintenance of electronics.