The Fair Repair Act has passed in New York, the U.S.’s first “right-to-repair” bill broadly concerning user electronics.
Right-to-repair has been a topic of keen interest in the technology sector for a while, most often mentioned in conjunction with Apple and John Deere. Both companies are notorious for restricting consumer’s ability to have their own property repaired, or even to do it themselves.
New York’s Fair Repair Act, which only awaits signature by state Governor Kathy Hochul, will require any manufacturer selling ‘digital electronic products’ inside New York state borders to allow independent repair without ‘bricking’ or externally making a device inoperable. And not only that, but they’ll be required to make repair manuals, tools, and parts available to both independent repair shops and end-user consumers.
“The passage of this bill means that repairs should become less expensive and more comprehensive: people who want to fix their own stuff can,” reads a blog post by self-repair group iFixit. “Where before, manufacturers could push consumers to use manufacturer-authorized shops, now they’ll have to compete.”
Last year, President Biden issued an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce repair rights, but there were few laws to give the order teeth.
Massachusetts has such a law for automobiles. Earlier this year, Colorado passed one regarding the repair of powered wheelchairs, to prevent companies from abusing medicare vouchers given to the elderly and disabled.
The New York law, while the broadest so far, has carve-outs for home appliances, medical devices, and agricultural equipment, all of which are still hot issues for right-to-repair advocates. And while it is specific to New York state, it’s impossible for manufacturers to releases manuals, parts, and tools without them disseminating beyond state borders. Invasive software measures will also become impractical. There’s a real chance this law will lead to nationwide, and worldwide, change.