This week, New York passed the first right-to-repair law in the United States. After the Digital Fair Repair Act was passed with overwhelming support from both houses of the New York legislature, Governor Kathy Hochul signed it into law a few months later.
The new right-to-repair law in New York only applies to products sold after July 2023 and does not include business-to-business transactions or government sales of machinery. These kind of provisions significantly water down the repair bill’s original intent.
Despite right-to-repair advocates hailing the bill’s passage as “precedent-setting,” the measure as approved is significantly toned down. To comply with the new regulation, businesses must make available to customers the same diagnostic equipment, repair instructions, and replacement components that they make available to their own service personnel in factory-authorized service centres.
However, the legislation as it currently stands has been considerably weakened as a result of lobbying by special interest organisations supported by the IT lobby. As approved by Hochul, the measure has even more restrictions and exclusions that obscure the real issues that IT lobbyists were worried about: technological problems that might compromise safety and security, as well as increased risk of injury from physical repair efforts.
The restriction that it only applies to devices made and sold in New York on or after July 1, 2023, severely weakened the legislation; earlier devices do not need to be included under this legislation, which, frankly, sort of contradicts the point of the bill.
One further way the law was watered down was by exempting from its coverage equipment supplied to other businesses or the government but not to consumers. As strong supporters of the right-to-repair campaign in the United States, American farmers will be particularly disappointed by the legislation’s exclusion of business-to-business machinery.
Farmers in the United States have been fighting against John Deere and other tractor manufacturers for making it nearly hard for farmers to operate on their own equipment without taking them to service centres and repair shops, where they are typically paid excessive rates.
When the danger of damage is increased due to incorrect installation, manufacturers have also been given the authority to supply assemblies of parts rather than just the individual parts. This implies that customers who take their phones or other technological devices to an independent repair shop run the risk of having to pay for unnecessary replacement parts.
As a result of the hazy nature in which the assemblies have been specified, it is possible that a client who only has to replace the battery of his device may be required to purchase and have fitted a new charging port.
These amendments are in addition to the original bill’s extensive exclusions, which did not apply to medical devices, automobiles, off-road equipment, or residential appliances.
While celebrating the bill’s passing, advocates for the right to repair noted that the legislation was weakened by concessions.
“This is a huge victory for consumers and a major step forward for the right to repair movement,” wrote iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. “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.”
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