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First comprehensive Right to Repair law in US becomes toothless at last minute

What was once a pretty powerful Right to Repair win got nerfed.
By
December 29, 2022
Sony WH 1000MX3 repair screwdriver
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • New York’s Digital Fair Repair Act is the first comprehensive Right to Repair bill to pass in the United States.
  • Unfortunately, the bill got nerfed at the last minute.
  • There are now plenty of exceptions companies can exploit to avoid changing much in response to the bill.

The Right to Repair movement can chalk up a significant win to close out 2022. In New York this week, governor Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Act. Although this isn’t the first Right to Repair bill to pass in a state, it is the most comprehensive yet.

The bill makes it law that consumers and independent repair providers must have access to manuals, diagrams, diagnostics, and parts from all OEMs that do business in the state. While that sounds great, the bill had some last-minute amendments added that essentially make it toothless.

The most notable last-minute change is the ability for OEMs to sell grouped parts rather than individual parts. This could allow a smartphone manufacturer, for example, to sell a pre-assembled motherboard, battery, and display instead of those three individual parts. Obviously, if you only need one of those parts, needing to buy all three would likely prevent you from going through with the repair and instead just buy a new phone.

Another unfortunate change is the removal of a requirement for OEMs to provide passwords or codes to bypass security features. In other words, if you have a device that is locked for whatever reason, a smartphone manufacturer would not need to provide you with a way to unlock it. Once again, this would likely force a consumer to buy a new phone rather than seek out a repair.

Governor Hochul claims these amendments were necessary to protect consumers from physical harm and security problems. Right to Repair advocates — including Kyle Wiens from iFixit and repair technician Louis Rossman —criticized these changes, according to The Verge.

Regardless, the passing of the Digital Fair Repair Act is a significant win for the Right to Repair movement. While not perfect, it does represent a first of its kind in the US and could signal more sweeping changes to come.