New York Governor Neuters Right To Repair Law With A Single Line

ifixit teardown
After a lengthy legislative process, New York has become the first US state to enact a law protecting a consumer's right to repair their own devices. Well, mostly. The law included some exemptions as passed by the state assembly, and governor Kathy Hochul has made additional alterations in an approval message. While the new law will make it easier to repair devices, the newly loosened requirements will also give OEMs more opportunities to circumvent the spirit of the law and render it less effective.

The law is the result of years of lobbying by consumer rights advocates, and it faced fierce opposition from the industries targeted. The gist of the law is that manufacturers of "digital electronic equipment" must provide the necessary tools, parts, and documentation for consumers to repair the devices they have purchased. Even before the bill reached the governor's desk, it included exemptions for medical devices, vehicles, off-road equipment, and home appliances. That was already quite limiting, but it's worse following 11th-hour pleas by manufacturers.

The governor made these changes after being lobbied by Microsoft, Apple, and the TechNet industry association that represents the likes of Google, Amazon, and HP. In the signing statement, Hochul claims that the legislation as constructed by lawmakers could result in safety and security risk for consumers. Thus, the final law will not require companies to provide "passwords, security codes or materials" that may be needed to bypass security features. This may be necessary to make a replacement component work correctly, which limits DIY and third-party repair options. The changes also note that the law will only cover devices sold after the effective date of July 1, 2023.

fahy rossmann
Rossmann (center) has been a strong advocate of the bill, but says the watered-down version is "functionally useless."

Perhaps the biggest problem is the concession that OEMs won't actually have to provide individual parts. Instead, they can offer "assemblies" of parts. So, instead of a single chip, you might only be able to purchase a more expensive finished circuit board. This will increase the cost of repairs and push people to consider full replacements instead.

Advocates for the law admit this is not ideal. Repair technician and right to repair advocate Louis Rossmann claims these changes will make the bill "functionally useless." However, others like iFixit are taking a more moderate position. New York is a huge market, so OEMs will have no choice but to comply. Even those who don't live in New York will benefit from the availability of replacement parts, and perhaps some of these shortcomings can be addressed in future legislation. Although, that will be another uphill battle.