During the lull between last Christmas and New Year’s, New York state became the first state in the nation to enact a “right to repair” law — though with revised language some advocates say the law is toothless. Called the Digital Fair Repair Act and set to take effect on July 1, the New York regulation requires manufacturers to provide owners and independent repair shops with the necessary manuals, parts, diagnostics and diagrams to repair consumer devices. Is.
Exactly what appliances does the Digital Fair Repair Act cover? Well, a lot – any that are originally formed as “digital electronic equipment”. But some are carved out, including cars, home appliances, medical devices, off-road equipment and enterprise equipment used by data centers, schools and hospitals.
Furthermore, the law only applies to gadgets manufactured after July 1, and does not require manufacturers to voluntarily provide the security unlocking codes needed to repair a device. It also forbids those same manufacturers to distribute certain components if it believes “the risk of improper installation outweighs the risk of injury.”
Most of those exceptions were added at the eleventh hour with the approval of Governor Cathy Hochul, who said in a statement that they are intended to reduce safety issues and the risk of physical harm while repairs are made. However, advocates such as Louis Rossmann, who runs a MacBook repair shop, expressed immediate skepticism, arguing that manufacturers would exploit the modifications for their own ends.
Ars Technica reported last year that representatives from Microsoft and Apple pressured Hochul’s office for changes. So does industry association TechNet, which represents tech companies including Amazon, Google and TechCrunch parent Yahoo! An earlier version of the bill received broad bipartisan support, passing the New York State Assembly 147-2 and the Senate 59-4, but sat on the governor’s desk for months.
“Such changes could limit the benefits of school computers and most products currently in use,” the Public Interest Research Group, a collective of consumer rights organizations, said in a statement last week. “Even more troubling, the bill now excludes some smartphone circuit boards from parts that manufacturers are required to sell, and requires repair shops to post unnecessary warranty language.”
Rossmann points out that under the Digital Fair Repair Act, companies like Apple would still be allowed to serialize components after repair, preventing independent repairers from repairing devices with spare parts — even that the actual parts are also removed from the same product. ,[The] The manufacturer will tell you that you need to replace the $745 motherboard when you have a bad $28 chip on your motherboard,” he said in a video response to the legislation’s passage.
The Digital Fair Repair Act is one of a number of bills recently introduced in more than 40 states that aims to expand repair options for consumer devices. Supporters of the law say a lack of documentation, poor access to spare parts and software restrictions are limiting consumer choice. Manufacturers counter that authorized repairs are necessary to ensure quality and protect their intellectual property.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling on the US Federal Trade Commission to ban “use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs of your own tools and equipment.” Anticipating the new regulations, companies including Google, Apple, Samsung, and Valve began selling repair manuals and parts for some of their products.