Last week, the New York Senate approved the Digital Fair Repair Act, digital right-to-repair legislation that makes it easier for people to repair their own electronics and farming equipment. The legislation was approved 51-12, making the senate the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve a law like this.
The bill would require original equipment manufacturers (OEM) like Apple to make diagnostic information, spare parts, schematics, special tools and firmware available to independent repair providers. The goal of the legislation is to increase competition and decrease the cost of repairing equipment, says Nathan Proctor the senior right to repair campaign director for the United States Public Interest Research Group, or U.S. PIRG.
“It protects consumers from the monopolistic practices of manufacturers,” Sen. Phil Boyle said during a June 10 session to approve the bill. “We all have computers, laptops and smartphones that we repair once in a while. Many times, we have to send them back to the manufacturer for simple repairs that cost a lot more. Now people can repair their own computers, laptops and smartphones and farm equipment. We don’t have to send them back to the manufacturers.”
According to Apple’s website, replacing the screen on an iPhone can cost up to $300.
The bill still must pass the Assembly and get signed by the governor. However, it’s unclear when this bill could be approved. Proctor says the state assembly does not plan to discuss the bill further until next year.
Lawmakers also believe such a bill if passed would reduce waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). E-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams internationally and accounts for 70 percent of all the toxic waste in American landfills, the World Economic Forum reports.
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.
“The New York Senate’s vote sends a huge signal to other states considering this legislation that this is a popular idea that you can pass in a vote,” Proctor says. “When we finally do pass a right-to-repair bill, I think the flood gates will open and push manufacturers to come to the table and form an industrywide agreement.”
Proctor believes the biggest obstacle to getting a right to repair bill passed is the companies lobbying against it. According to a study done by U.S. PIRG, $10.7 trillion are going toward preventing right-to-repair bills from passing. Despite this, he’s optimistic right to repair will become law soon.