You probably know that if you take your car to a manufacturer-authorized garage, it will take longer to get the car fixed, and you’ll be hit with an eye-poppingly expensive invoice.
But if you take it to a trusted local mechanic, not only is the quality of work just as good, but you get a more affordable, friendlier, and often quicker service.
Consumer electronics manufacturers have long attempted to consolidate the repair market for electronics by restricting access to parts and tools, and insisting that consumers use repair shops authorized by them.
New York’s right to repair bill changes that.
New York Legislates Right to Repair for Electronics
The New York state legislature passed the Digital Fair Repair Act on June 1, 2022, covering electronics. This makes it the first legal jurisdiction in the world to do so.
The New York State Senate summarizes the bill thus:
This bill requires original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to make diagnostic and repair information for digital electronic parts and equipment available to independent repair providers and consumers if such parts and repair information are also available to OEM authorized repair providers.
In other words, all manufacturers whose electronics are sold within the borders of New York State are required by law to provide access to the tools, parts, and information needed to repair their devices to both independent repair shops and consumers.
Once signed into law by New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who is expected to do so, it will take effect one year later, in mid-2023.
However, according to iFixit, although “this bill covers most products containing electronics, it does not include cars, home appliances, medical devices, public safety communications equipment like police radios, agricultural equipment, and off-road equipment”. These will require separate legislation in the future.
Why Is New York’s Decision a Game Changer for Consumer Electronics?
The right to repair is the legal idea that consumers have both the right to repair the equipment they purchase and the right to select their preferred service provider, whoever that may be.
Microsoft embraced the right to repair, but most manufacturers generally oppose right to repair laws, broadly arguing that since the equipment contains their intellectual property and it comes with warranty obligations, repairs should be performed either by them or an authorized service provider.
Although there are reasons to oppose the right to repair, it seems that with this bill, manufacturers have lost the argument. They now can no longer restrict access to the parts, tools, and information necessary to repair electronics; at least, not in New York.
This means independent repairers will have the ability to compete with manufacturers in the provision of repair services, making repairs less expensive.
According to iFixit, this bill also compels manufacturers to give the public access to parts that were previously exclusively paired to a device’s motherboard or its serial number. This provision makes it possible to harvest parts from old devices, which is impossible when those parts are paired to the motherboard, which is a big boost to the refurbishment industry that relies on harvesting parts from old devices.
The most revolutionary part of the bill, however, is the requirement to release diagnostic and repair information to New Yorkers. Since it is impossible to restrict that information to New York alone in the internet age, this information will rapidly spread everywhere.
This will be a big boost to all repair shops across the US and worldwide, who will now have this information at their fingertips.
Many Battles Remain, But New York Has Won a Decisive Victory
The right to repair war has been ongoing since at least 1996, the year when the 1956 IBM Consent Decree was lifted, thereby precipitating the decline of independent repair of computers. The Consent Decree was passed by a US Federal court in 1956, compelling IBM to allow a market in used equipment and independent repairs.
With this bill, it may be argued that New York has brought back the Consent Decree in some form. Although it only applies to New York, its impact will be felt not only in the US, but globally.