You probably know that if you take your car to a manufacturer-approved garage, it will take longer to repair the car and you will be hit with an extremely expensive bill.
But if you take it to a trusted local mechanic, not only is the quality of the work just as good, but you get more affordable, friendlier, and often faster service.
Consumer electronics manufacturers have long tried to shore up the electronics repair market by restricting access to parts and tools and insisting that consumers use consumer-approved repair shops.
New York’s Right to Repair bill changes that.
New York legislates right to repair for electronics
The New York State Legislature passed the Digital Fair Repair Act on June 1, 2022, covering electronics. This makes it the first legal jurisdiction in the world to do so.
The New York State Senate summarizes the bill as follows:
This bill requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make diagnostic and repair information for digital electronic parts and equipment available to independent repairers and consumers if such parts and repair information is also available. for OEM authorized repairers.
In other words, all manufacturers whose electronics are sold within the borders of New York State are required by law to provide independent repair shops and consumers with access to tools, parts and information needed to repair their devices.
Once signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who is expected to do so, it will come into effect a year later, in mid-2023.
However, according to iFixit, while “this bill covers most products containing electronics, it does not include cars, appliances, medical devices, public safety communications equipment like car radios, etc. police, agricultural equipment and off-road equipment”. These will require separate legislation in the future.
Why is New York’s decision a game-changer for consumer electronics?
The right to repair is the legal idea that consumers have both the right to repair the equipment they purchase and the right to choose their preferred service provider, whoever it is.
Microsoft has embraced the right to repair, but most manufacturers generally oppose right to repair laws, usually arguing that since the equipment contains their intellectual property and comes with warranty obligations, repairs must be carried out either by them or by an authorized service provider.
Although there are reasons to oppose the right to repair, it seems that with this bill, builders have lost the argument. They can no longer restrict access to the parts, tools and information needed to repair electronics; at least not in New York.
This means independent repairers will be able to compete with manufacturers in providing repair services, making repairs less expensive.
According to iFixit, this bill also requires manufacturers to provide public access to parts that were previously tied exclusively to a device’s motherboard or serial number. This layout makes it possible to salvage parts from old devices, which is impossible when those parts are mated to the motherboard, which is a big boost for the refurbishment industry that relies on the harvesting of parts from old devices.
The most revolutionary part of the bill, however, is the requirement to disclose diagnostic and repair information to New Yorkers. Since it is impossible to limit this information to just New York City in the age of the Internet, this information will quickly spread everywhere.
This will be a big boost for all repair shops in the United States and around the world, who will now have this information at their fingertips.
Many battles remain to be fought, but New York has won a decisive victory
The right to repair war has existed since at least 1996, the year the IBM Consent Decree of 1956 was lifted, thus precipitating the decline of independent computer repair. The consent decree was passed by a U.S. federal court in 1956, requiring IBM to allow a market for used equipment and independent repairs.
With this bill, it’s safe to say that New York has brought back the consent decree in some form. Although it only applies to New York, its impact will be felt not only in the United States, but around the world.