New York passes landmark right-to-repair law despite manufacturer pressure

Under the Digital Fair Repair Act, companies will need to make their repair schematics open-source.

Hand holding recyclable plastic bottle in garbage bin.
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The New York State Senate voted this week in favor of passing an electronics right-to-repair law — the first governing power to do so in the United States. The Digital Fair Repair Act should put more pressure on manufacturers to make their products more easily repairable by the average user or third-party repair companies.

“It protects consumers from the monopolistic practices of manufacturers,” State Senator Phil Boyle said of the law, Vice reports. “Now people can repair their own computers, laptops, and smartphones, and farm equipment. We don’t have to send them back to the manufacturers.”

The right-to-repair movement has been around for years in the U.S., but in the last few years, it’s really begun to pick up speed at a legislative level. Quite a few state and local governments have been working toward right-to-repair laws, much to the dismay of electronics companies with top-secret schematics like Tesla and Apple.

The movement has been helped by the fact that the overwhelming majority of consumers want more control of their electronics repairs. The NY Senate bill passed with a vote of 51 to 12. And this is only the beginning — half the states in the country are considering right-to-repair laws this year. That’s not an exaggeration.

Just give us the schematics — Modern electronics are very complex, and manufacturers take advantage of this complexity by forcing consumers to send their devices to officially authorized repair shops rather than completing them at home or via a third-party electronics shop. This has turned into an all-out repair monopoly, allowing companies like Apple to set whatever fees they like for repairs. It’s also meant more devices finding their way to landfills.

The Digital Fair Repair Act presents a solution to this problem that’s very elegant in its simplicity: just release the schematics. The law states that manufacturers will need to “make available, for purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair, to any independent repair provider, or to the 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, inclusive of any updates to information or embedded software.”

The first of many — The right-to-repair as a movement is mostly centered in the United States, but increased attention has allowed that movement to go global, too. The EU is planning to introduce its own right-to-repair law later this year that’ll apply to the whole region.

New York State’s overwhelming support for this law in the face of pressure from manufacturers to drop the idea is a very promising sign of what’s to come for the overall right-to-repair movement. These laws would drastically change the way not only consumer electronics (like phones and laptops) are repaired but would also open up repairability for farming and medical equipment.

The Digital Fair Repair Act will now need to pass in New York’s Assembly and receive a final signature from the Governor. Lobbyists hope to push the bill into law this summer.