Electronics recycling
Joao Virissimo | Dreamstime

New York approves digital right to repair legislation

The bill, which allows customers to repair their own electronics, including phones, tablets and computers, now goes to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk.

June 7, 2022

The New York State Senate has approved the Digital Fair Repair Act, which will expand consumer access to parts, tools and information to repair personal electronics. The act was approved June 3 by a vote of 145-1.

The bill requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make diagnostic information, spare parts, schematics, special tools and firmware available to independent repair providers, says Nathan Proctor, the senior right to repair campaign director for the United States Public Interest Research Group or U.S. PIRG.

“This means repair shops that are fixing those devices are going to get the support they need without jumping through hoops that manufacturers make them go through to control their process do their jobs,” Proctor says. “I hope this will put pressure on the industry to expand access to repair their devices.”

However, the bill’s scope has been narrowed. Originally, it included provisions for agricultural equipment, public service equipment and home appliances. Now, the bill only focuses on devices like computers, phones and tablets. Gaming consoles are not covered by the act, according to Proctor.

The bill could have a wide range of impacts in New York and across the country. The U.S. PIRG says the legislation will increase competition, boost the economy and drive down prices for electronics repair in the state. The bill could also serve as the blueprint for other states interested in enacting right to repair laws.

“For independent repair shops, this news is huge. Independent shops will finally be able to compete with manufacturers, resisting the repair market consolidation manufacturers have created by restricting access to parts and tools,” says Kyle Wiens, the founder of iFixit. “People who want to fix their own stuff can. And your repair experience should improve even if you’re intimidated by the thought of cracking open your laptop or phone. Where before, manufacturers could push consumers to use manufacturer-authorized shops, now they’ll have to compete.”

Twenty-five states are considering right to repair laws, including Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. States like Arkansas, Kansas and Vermont are considering right-to-repair laws for agricultural equipment, Proctor says. Recently, a right to repair bill failed to pass the Senate committee.

Last year, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14036, which paves the way for new regulations for original equipment manufacturers. The order directs the Federal Trade Commission to draft regulations that limit OEMs’ ability to restrict independent repairs of their products.

The bill has yet to be signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul. Once it is signed, it will take a year to take effect in New York.

“There will still be a long way to go before we’ve legally secured a Right to Repair for everything, across the whole world,” Wiens says. “Many other states are considering bills of their own, and we’ve still got appliances, tractors and medical devices on our dream docket. Nevertheless, this victory is the biggest the Right to Repair movement has seen so far.”