The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly voted to pass electronics right-to-repair legislation, becoming the first legislative body in the country to do so. It is a major step forward for a movement that has overwhelming public support and has been working toward getting a law done for the last several years.
“It protects consumers from the monopolistic practices of manufacturers,” Senator Phil Boyle said on the floor. “We all have computers, laptops, and smartphones that we repair once in a while. Many times we have to send them back to the manufacturer for simple repairs that cost a lot more. Now people can repair their own computers, laptops, and smartphones, and farm equipment. We don’t have to send them back to the manufacturers.”
The Senate passed the bill with 51 Senators voting for and only 12 voting against. The bill still has to pass the Assembly on an extremely tight deadline—New York's legislative session ends Thursday. If enacted, New York’s Digital Fair Repair Act would be the first of its kind in the United States. One of its strengths is its simplicity. According to the text, it “requires OEMs to make available, for purposes of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair, to any independent repair provider, or to the owner of digital electronic equipment manufactured by or on behalf of, or sold by, the OEM, on fair and reasonable terms, documentation, parts, and tools, inclusive of any updates to information or embedded software.”
To become a law the bill still needs to pass in New York’s Assembly and get signed by the Governor. The Assembly version is currently stalled, but lobbyists working to get it passed are hopeful.
“We're very enthusiastic about the Senate moving this forward and appreciate the work our Senate sponsor has done this year and we plan to work with the Assembly over the summer to make it a priority and get it passed early next session in both houses,” Cassie Orlan, a lobbyist working on the right-to-repair, told Motherboard in an email.
“We have great sponsors in both houses who have a proven track record of getting big things done,” she said. “NY has proven to be a leader in protecting consumer rights, breaking up big tech, and environmental issues and Right to Repair encompasses all of these issues.”
“This is big: I’m proud of all the people who helped us reach this important milestone today. People just want to fix their stuff,” Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG’s right-to-repair Campaign Director, said in a statement. “Despite a huge lobbying effort from manufacturers, New York senators listened to their constituents. They chose to pass a bill that will make repair cheaper and improve consumer choice.”
Half the states in the country are considering right-to-repair laws this year. People overwhelmingly want the right to fix their own stuff. Companies like Apple maintain a repair monopoly and spend millions lobbying state legislatures to fight against the right-to-repair. The legislation would affect far more than just our phones. Farming equipment and medical devices are also in need of protection from manufacturer’s repair monopolies.
In Colorado, similar legislation failed after hours of riveting testimony from people about the pain and suffering caused by their inability to get quick and efficient repairs on medical devices.
Proctor and others are hopeful. “Right to Repair just makes sense: It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. When consumers have easily accessible repair options, it cuts back dramatically on downtime, which is especially critical for farmers,” Proctor said. “Beyond that, repair can teach students technology skills, inspire careers and help build a local repair economy on Main Street. We keep getting closer, and eventually we will win. While the passage of this bill is a big step in the right direction, we aren’t going to stop until people have the laws they need to fix their stuff.”