New Yorkers will be allowed to fix their own digital devices made by companies like
“As technology and smart devices become increasingly essential to our daily lives, consumers should be able to easily fix the devices they rely on in a timely fashion,” Hochul said Thursday.
Hochul’s approval came with alterations to the original bill, to which the state Legislature has agreed, including the elimination of language that would have required manufacturers to give the public security codes or passwords that could compromise security features.
The measure (A.7006B/S.4104A), known as the “Digital Fair Repair Act,” will require manufacturers to make available diagnostic and repair information, as well as parts for most digital electronic equipment, to consumers and independent repair businesses “on fair and reasonable terms.”
The manufacturers won’t be required under the law to divulge trade secrets and won’t be liable for damage made to the device by its owner or an independent repair provider, according to the bill.
New York is the first state to pass a right to repair bill, as many consumer electronics are becoming more difficult to repair when they break. Bill sponsors say the legislation levels the playing field for independent repair shops. It also reduces e-waste.
Other changes to the original bill are:
- Manufacturers may provide assemblies of parts rather than individual components when the risk of improper installation heightens the risk of injury,
- Manufacturers that contract with third-party repair shops or provide their own repair services must provide parts, tools, and documents at reasonable costs to device owners and independent repair shops,
- Digital products that are the subject of business-to-business sales or business-to-government sales without a retail component are exempt, and
- Original equipment manufacturers won’t be required to license any intellectual property.
Other states are likely to follow. Similar proposals are pending in several states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.
New York’s law will take effect July 1, 2023, and will apply to digital electronic equipment that is both manufactured for the first time as well as sold or used in New York for the first time on or after that date.
The measure was lauded by the Federal Trade Commission but had pushback from electronics manufacturers and business groups.
The legislation creates “potential legal issues regarding federal trade secret statutes and puts manufacturers’ valuable patents and other intellectual property rights at risk of exposure,’' The Business Council of New York State said in a May 31 opposition memo.
Companies “would be obligated to send significant amounts of data related to highly sensitive and technical aspects of equipment to almost any repair provider who requests it,” the council said, adding that the legislation also “impedes on a manufacturer’s ability to establish contractual relationships with authorized service providers.”
Documentation, Tools, Parts
Federal fair repair legislation has yet to make it through Congress. The US Copyright Office in October 2021 issued regulations to strengthen consumers’ rights to repair software-enabled devices.
In April, customers brought a class action lawsuit against Apple alleging customers that do their own repairs were threatened with loss of warranty coverage and refused service by the tech giant.
Under the New York law, electronics manufacturers will be required to make directions, parts, and tools for fixing the equipment available. And they must make available “on fair and reasonable terms,” any documentation, tools, or parts to access and reset equipment that contains a security lock, according to the legislation.
Under the new law, manufacturers won’t be:
- required to provide tools, parts, or documentation for making modifications to devices,
- responsible for certain public safety communications equipment used for emergency responses,
- required to provide information for home appliances with digital electronics embedded within them, or
- required to provide information on equipment whose repair would violate federal law.
The legislation also doesn’t apply to motor vehicles, medical devices, and off-road equipment for industries like farming and construction.
Businesses violating the law would face penalties of up to $500 for each violation.
Equity, Savings, E-Waste
The inability to repair items like smartphones places a financial burden on people of color and low-income communities, according to a 2021 FTC report to Congress called “Nixing the Fix.”
Easy device repair is estimated to save families about $330 per year, according to a report from the US Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy organization.
Allowing people to repair their items or have them repaired locally also decreases electronic waste, said Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D), the bill’s Assembly sponsor.
“We’re also reducing an expected 655,000 tons of toxic e-waste discarded in each year in New York State, where 85% of that waste ends up in a landfill,” Fahy said Thursday. “We are hopeful this will spur other states into action, galvanize the effort to enact a right to repair law at the national level, and that all Americans will eventually enjoy a comprehensive and real ‘right to repair.’”
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