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New Right-to-Repair Law Signed by New York Governor, but Advocates Call It Toothless

On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul of New York became the first US state to stipulate that consumers have the right to access diagnostic tools, parts, and documentation from device producers in order to fix their gadgets. supporters of the right to repair, though, argue the change will have little effect.

Manufacturers of numerous electronic devices (except household appliances, cars, and medical equipment) will be required, as of July1, under the Digital Fair Repair Act to make available to users “materials like manuals and schematics, and tools like diagnostics and parts.”

In a statement released on Wednesday night, Hochul noted that the bill “as prepared featured technological flaws that may put safety and security at risk.” So she reached an agreement with the New York legislature that allows device manufacturers to provide “assemblies of parts,” meaning companies won’t be forced to sell individual components that may cost less, but instead can sell a “assembly,” like a circuit board with included chips, at a higher price. It will also be legal for businesses to keep secret whatever security mechanisms they may have.

“As technology and smart gadgets become more crucial to our everyday lives, customers should be able to quickly repair the equipment they depend on in a timely way,” Hochul wrote in her statement, published on her office website and shared with local media.

Supporters of the nation’s first right-to-repair measure saw this as a victory, as they had hoped New York would play a role in establishing robust consumer safeguards. To avoid spending money on factory-trained personnel, proponents of the “right to repair” argue that users should have access to the necessary documentation, components, and tools from the device’s creator. As a consequence, consumers should be able to enjoy their items for longer, and electronic waste should be reduced or eliminated.

Indeed, Hochul’s signature was hailed as “another environmental success for the state” by the New York League of Conservation Voters. In a similar vein, Consumer Reports expressed optimism that the rule will reduce waste by noting, “When your equipment is damaged, you should have more alternatives than a high-priced service or the landfill.”

Consumer Reports and other supporters have emphasised that in fact, businesses have fought back on the measure, saying that only specific components and paperwork should be made publicly accessible.

Last-minute amendments made to New York’s law before it was enacted not only decrease safeguards for consumers but also remove items created for and depended on by schools, hospitals, colleges, and government institutions, according to advocates like iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. He and Consumer Reports both found fault with the law since it would only affect products sold after July 1.

Despite his disappointment, Wiens praised the measure, saying, “It’s a start.” “significant progress for the Right to Repair campaign and a great win for consumers. I am hopeful that other states will follow New York’s lead and enact similar laws in the near future.”

Voters in Massachusetts enacted a repair law in 2020 that required automakers to provide customers access to vehicle diagnostic data, and lawmakers in other states are exploring similar legislation.

Meanwhile, IT giants like Apple, Samsung, Google, and Microsoft have started selling replacement components for their latest products.