First ‘right to repair’ law for electronics passed in US — Analysis

The electronics manufacturers must make instructions and tools for DIY repairs available.

New York has passed the US’ first “You can repair it right away” bill governing electronics, which will force “Electronic products for digital devices” manufacturers to supply tools, spare parts, and repair instructions to customers and independent resale shops.

The Fair Repair Act was passed by the state legislature on Friday. Governor Kathy Hochul is expected to sign it. After becoming law, it will go into effect one year later. 

Federal agencies and grassroots organizations have been advocating for legislation that would require repair companies to make them more affordable. Last year, even US President Joe Biden issued an executive order calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce repair rights.

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The New York law encompasses the biggest gains for right to repair advocates thus far, with self-repair group iFixit championing the bill as “One giant leap towards repairkind” Nathan Proctor, the lead Right to Repair campaigner for US Public Interest Research Group, hailed the bill’s passage as a “Hard-earned victory” for the movement.  

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who shepherded the bill through the New York State Assembly, praised it as well, saying it will “Customers first. This will help to level the playing fields for independent repair shops and decrease our environmental footprint.

The legislation makes it mandatory for digital electronics makers to make available critical information to local repair shops so that they can complete repair work on any product. This will end corporate-owned monopoly in repair markets and promote competition.,” she said.

Once the law takes effect in New York, other states will likely fall in line quickly, given that repair manuals published in one state can easily make their way over the borders to the next – and to other countries, for that matter.

While electronic devices are not the only cause of dispute in terms of right to repair, the New York law also includes exemptions for medical equipment, home appliances and farm equipment.

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The global food shortage is making it harder to justify the use of proprietary technology by farming equipment manufacturers. This means that users will need to hire expensive technicians for repairs when a tractor malfunctions. A shortage of qualified technicians will lead to crops not being harvested due to the inability of these specialists to be booked ahead.

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