New York passes the Digital Fair Repair Act; amendments added to the bill reduce its impact
New York Governor Kathy Hochul affixed her signature to the Digital Fair Repair Act and while other states have passed Right to Repair bills, none are as all-encompassing as New York's legislation. As noted by The Verge, the bill gives consumers and independent repair shops the ability to obtain from manufacturers manuals, diagrams, and parts necessary to fix a device. The manufacturers covered by the law have to do business inside the state of New York.
Amendments added to New York's Digital Fair Repair Act take the shine off of the nation's first Right to Repair law
The impact of the bill was reduced by a couple of controversial last-minute amendments that Governor Hochul said were necessary to protect consumers from both physical harm and security issues. The first amendment allows manufacturers to sell parts already assembled instead of delivering individual components. The decision to do so is up to the manufacturer. This would force a consumer to purchase more than just the one component he might need for a repair which would force the consumer to spend money for parts not needed.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Act on Thursday
The bill also won't require manufacturers to turn over "passwords, security codes or materials" needed to bypass security features. Sometimes unlocking a device is necessary to repair a device that will still function, but is locked by the device's own security features. Independent repair technician Louis Rossmann, who has been a supporter of a strong Right to Repair law, says that by not turning over the passwords or codes to unlock consumers' devices, the bill is "functionally useless."
Rossmann called the governor's reasons for adding the amendments "bullshit" and warned that manufacturers are going to use the changes to take advantage of consumers. Another amendment added to the bill indicates that July 1, 2023, is the date when devices "manufactured for the first time as well as sold or used in New York for the first time" will be covered by the legislation.
Governor Hochul said, "As technology and smart devices become increasingly essential to our daily lives, consumers should be able to easily fix the devices they rely on in a timely fashion. This legislation will empower consumers with better options to repair their devices, thereby maximizing the lifespan of their devices, saving money, and reducing electronic waste."
The CEO of iFixit was thrilled that the bill had passed
The CEO of "how-to" repair website iFixit, Kyle Wiens, noted that "The bill excludes some sectors such as appliances, security alarms, motor vehicles, medical devices, farm equipment, outdoor power equipment, power tools, industrial electrical equipment, and e-bikes. Many other states are considering Right to Repair legislation that would protect those product categories, including the powered wheelchair Right to Repair law that goes into effect in Colorado on January 1."
New: Gov. Hochul has signed the “right to repair” law — with the Legislature agreeing to a number of changes, as outlined in her approval message. pic.twitter.com/GUBExlj5BD— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellNY) December 29, 2022
Wiens, whose company also sells parts and offers free online tutorials to help consumers repair their devices, was overjoyed by the passing of the new law. "This is a huge victory for consumers and a major step forward for the right to repair movement," he said. "New York has set a precedent for other states to follow, and I hope to see more states passing similar legislation in the near future."
He went on to say, "Similarly, we expect manufacturers to adapt quickly to apply the New York law nationwide by posting service documentation online and selling repair parts. So far this year, Apple, Google, Valve, and Samsung have rolled out parts programs that will help them comply with this new law.
A press release from the governor's office summed up the goal of the Digital Fair Repair Act: "Far too often, repairs of digital items are difficult to accomplish due to limited accessibility to parts and tools as well as a lack of manuals and diagrams. By signing this bill into law, New York is protecting consumers and opening the digital repair market up to competition and all its consumer, entrepreneurial and environmental benefits."