NEW YORK BECOMES THE FIRST US STATE TO PASS A ‘RIGHT-TO-REPAIR’ LEGISLATION, BUT IN A VERY WATERED DOWN MANNER

New York became the first US state to pass right-to-repair legislation earlier this week. A few months after being enacted by resounding bipartisan majorities in both chambers of the state legislature in New York, Governor Kathy Hochul finally signed the Digital Fair Repair Act into law.

Although the passing of this legislation is being hailed as “precedent-setting” by right-to-repair advocacy groups, the bill, in the form that it was passed, is heavily watered down. The new law requires companies to provide the same diagnostic tools, repair manuals, and parts to the public that they provide to their repair technicians at authorized service centers.

However, because of lobbying from special interest groups backed by the tech lobby, the legislation in its current form has been significantly weakened. As signed by Hochul, the bill contains even more conditions and exceptions, which mask what the tech lobbyists were concerned about. These technical issues could put safety and security at risk and heighten the risk of injury from physical repair projects.

One of the most significant ways by which the legislation was watered down was by the condition that it would only apply to devices manufactured and sold in New York on or after July 1, 2023 – older devices need not be covered under this legislation, which, frankly sort of defeats the purpose of the law.

Another way the law was compromised was that business-to-business and business-to-government equipment that isn’t sold to consumers has also been excluded from the legislation. American farmers have been significant proponents of the right-to-repair movement in the US, and this particular section of the bill bans business-to-business machines will be a significant setback for them.

Farmers in the US have been fighting against tractor manufacturers like John Deere for making it impossible for farmers to repair or work on their machines in any way without having to visit the service centers and repair shops, where they are often charged an exorbitant fees.

Manufacturers have also been given the right to provide assemblies of parts instead of parts by themselves when the risk of improper installation heightens the risk of injury. This means that although customers can get their phone or any tech device repaired at a third-party repair shop, they may be forced to buy parts that don’t need to be replaced.

Moreover, because the assemblies have been defined vaguely, it is possible that if a customer needs to replace the battery of his device, he will be forced to buy a new charging port and get it installed.

These compromises are stacked on top of some broad exemptions already in the original bill, which exclude medical devices, motor vehicles, off-road equipment, or home appliances.

Right-to-repair activists praised the bill’s passage while acknowledging that the compromises make it weaker than it should be.

“This is a huge victory for consumers and a major step forward for the right to repair movement,” wrote iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, one of the biggest backers of the movement. “New York has set a precedent for other states to follow, and I hope to see more states passing similar legislation shortly.”

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