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Last-minute changes render the first comprehensive Right to Repair law in the US toothless

A major victory for the Right to Repair campaign may be recorded by the end of 2022. The Digital Fair Repair Act was signed into law this week in New York by Governor Kathy Hochul. This is not the first Right to Repair legislation to be passed, but it is the most extensive one to date.

All Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) doing business in the state must make their manuals, schematics, diagnostics, and parts available to customers and independent repair providers, as required by the statute. That may have sounded fantastic in theory, but several alterations were inserted at the last minute that rendered the law impotent.

The option for original equipment manufacturers to offer assembled units rather than separate components is the most significant late addition. A smartphone maker, for instance, could be able to provide their product with a pre-assembled motherboard, battery, and display instead of selling each component separately. If you just need one of those components, it’s obvious that having to purchase all three will discourage you from repairing your phone and instead encourage you to buy a new one.

There has also been a disappointing shift away from mandating that original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) provide passwords or codes to disable security measures. This means that a smartphone maker has no obligation to help you bypass a locked screen. Again, this is something that would make a customer want to replace their phone rather than have it repaired.

Governor Hochul has argued that these changes are essential to safeguarding the public from physical injury and insecurity. The Verge reports that critics of the revisions include iFixit’s Kyle Wiens and Louis Rossman, a repair professional.

To sum up, the passage of the Digital Fair Repair Act is a huge victory for the Right to Repair campaign. It’s not flawless, but it’s the first of its sort in the US, and that might mean big things.