New York’s Right-to-Repair Bill Is ‘Functionally Useless,’ Critics Say

We’ve all been like this: Maybe you’ve dropped your phone too many times and now the screen is cracked. Or maybe it was in your pocket when you accidentally ran into a turnstile trying to catch a train and it bent completely. (Editor’s note: I feel attacked.) Or maybe you didn’t do anything wrong—but your phone won’t power on even though it’s been plugged in all day.

No matter the situation, you need to fix it—but unfortunately, that’s a lot easier said than done. If you have something like a Iphone, you can’t often do it yourself. Damn, sometimes you can’t even take it to any old tech fixer. You’ll need to take it to an Apple Store or Apple-certified repair shop to have it repaired for you. You have extremely limited options—which also means they can charge almost anything they want to fix your broken phone.

This is precisely the problem the rights-to-correct movement seeks to change. While advocacy groups have been trying to push for regulation to give consumers the ability to self-repair their tech products for years, little has actually changed in terms of specific legislation. — until yesterday… something like that.

On December 28, New York Governor Katy Hochul signed Digital Equity Repair Act, the first right to repair bill passed by the state legislature. The law requires companies that sell “digital electronics” to provide consumers and repair businesses with access to instructions, parts, and tools to repair and upgrade such products. .

“This legislation will enhance consumer choices in the repair market by giving them greater access to the parts, tools and documentation needed for repairs,” Hochul wrote in a statement. “Encouraging consumers to maximize the life of their devices through repair is a laudable goal to save money and reduce e-waste.”

“New York leads the country again. Today, America’s first right to repair act, the Digital Fair Repairs Act, was signed into law—putting consumers first, leveling the playing field for repair shops. independence and reduce our e-waste for the environment,” Albany’s Patricia Fahy, NY state representative and co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

While it has been hailed as “groundbreaking” by some right-to-repair activistsThere are a few notable changes to the bill originally introduced by technology lobbyists representing Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple and pushed by Governor Hochul to essentially break the law.

First, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are not required to “provide to the public any passwords, security codes, or documents to override security features,” Hochul writes. That means if you’re locked out of a device, you won’t be able to access it without factory resetting or sending it to the OEM.

Additionally, OEMs are allowed to ship “assembled parts” instead of individual parts if “the risk of improper installation increases the risk of injury.” Confused? You’re not alone. The language seems intentionally vague and opaque. But it basically says that if you need to repair or replace a specific part on your device like the iPhone screen ($), an OEM like Apple can sell you a bundle of other parts ( $$$) instead.

Best of all, the bill only applies to devices manufactured and sold in New York on and after July 1, 2023. That means it won’t apply to cell phones or computers that you use. reading this article, you know, may be broken and need to be fixed in the future.

Louis Rossmann, a rights activist who helped push the original version of the bill passed by the NY legislature, criticized the bill signed by Hochul in a YouTube video said, “It turned out exactly the way I thought it would.” He later added that the bill had been “depreciated” to the point that it was “functionally useless”.

But many right to repair advocates see the measure as a step—albeit a small one—to the movement to give consumers more choice with their products.

“This is a huge win for consumers and an important step forward for the right to repair movements. New York has set a precedent for other states to follow, and I hope to see many more states pass similar legislation in the near future,” said Kyle Wiens, CEO of rights group iFixit, said in a statement.

The movement has been bolstered in recent years by other legislative efforts including executive order 2021 signed by President Joe Biden, asks the FTC to ban “anti-competitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing your own repair of equipment and tools.”

So, in general, it’s a mixed bag for the right to repair movement. While the bill may be a lot less aggressive than supporters expect, it’s indicative of the days when it’s time to send in your phone, laptop, or even tractors to a licensed dealer or repair shop will be extinct. Hopefully future legislation will permanently fix a truly broken technological system.

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