ALBANY, N.Y. Finding ways to repair smartphones and other electronic devices will become a little easier for New Yorkers in the near future.
Governor Hochul signed a scaled-back version of a bill that will eventually require manufacturers to make diagnostic manuals, tools, and other repair parts available to the public and independent service shops.
The measure, considered the country’s first “right to repair” law, will only apply to products manufactured or sold after July 1, 2023.
“This historic law will save New Yorkers money, provide them with more convenient repair options, and reduce waste,” said Consumer Reports president and CEO Marta Tellado. “When your device breaks, you should have more options than a costly service or the landfill.”
The new law will apply to digital electronic products such as phones, tablets, and IT equipment, and will require businesses to provide access to the parts, tools, and information required to repair equipment.
However, Hochul included several exemptions in the final version, including an amendment that exempts businesses from providing “passwords, security codes, or materials” to circumvent security features.
It also permits manufacturers to sell assemblies of parts rather than individual components “when the risk of improper installation heightens the risk of injury,” according to Hochul in a memorandum accompanying the chapter amendments.
The final version also excludes digital products that are sold only to businesses or governments and are not available to the general public through retailers.
Despite the constraints, supporters and advocates applauded the final approval.
“Today marks a watershed moment for repair and the Right to Repair campaign. “I’ve pushed for repair reform in dozens of states and been told by industry lobbyists that we’d never see a floor vote, that we’d never pass a bill, that a governor would never sign it,” said Nathan Proctor, senior right to repair campaign director at Public Interest Research Group. “And, while it’s not everything we hoped for, it’s the first of its kind in the country, and it’s only the beginning.”
Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy (D-Albany), the bill’s main sponsor, touted the environmental impacts of the new law, saying it will “help to reduce the flow of toxins found in cell phones and other common electronics that often seep into our groundwater and water table.
“All of these actions ensure that New Yorkers will be at the forefront of protecting the public’s health and reducing exposure to dangerous and toxic chemical classes,” she added.
Following other changes that removed provisions requiring companies to provide repair information for farm equipment, medical devices, appliances, and cars, the bill was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of the Democrat-led Legislature earlier this year.
As other states consider similar broad legislation to give independent repair shops and consumers more freedom to repair broken phones and electronics, some larger corporations have already begun selling parts and components.
Environmentalists applauded the legislative victory, saying the new law will help reduce the threat posed by toxic chemicals found in many of the devices that are discarded prematurely.
“Electronic waste is the fastest growing category of municipal solid waste,” said Bobbi Wilding, executive director of Clean+Healthy and co-chair of the JustGreen Partnership.
“When people can’t easily hire local repair shops to fix their damaged devices, they are often driven to dump their item and buy a new one. As a result, electronic devices containing lead, PFAS, and bisphenols are discarded far too frequently, causing them to leach into the environment.”