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'Massive Breakthrough'

NY Becomes First State to Pass Electronics Right-to-Repair Bill

New York state could soon have the nation’s first digital electronics right-to-repair law, after the legislature passed on a bipartisan basis a proposal (S-4104/A-7006) Friday to require OEMs to provide parts, tools and repair documentation to consumers and independent repair shops. Advocates celebrated their first state victory on an electronics repair bill after years of trying to overcome tech industry lobbying against the legislation.

New York Assembly members voted 145-1 Friday for the right-to-repair bill by Assemblymember Patricia Fahy (D). Chris Friend (R) cast the lone no vote without any explanation during the livestreamed floor session. Voting yes, Republican Angelo Morinello thanked Fahy on the floor for making suggested changes to the bill in the Codes Committee where he’s ranking member. Senators voted 59-4 Wednesday for the right-to-repair bill, which next needs a signature from Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to become law. Advocates "don’t expect a challenge," blogged iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens. Hochul "will review the legislation," a spokesperson said Friday.

The “landmark,” first-in-the-nation state bill aims to end “big corporate monopolization of the repair industry,” save families money, and grow independent repair shops, Fahy said on the floor. It will “eliminate so much e-waste” that “it’s the equivalent of taking 655,000 cars off the highways each year,” she said. The New York attorney general would enforce violations of the bill, which would take effect one year after enactment.

The bill wouldn’t require OEMs to divulge trade secrets or alter terms of arrangements they have with authorized repair providers. Neither OEMs nor authorized repair providers could be held liable for damage caused by owners or independent repair providers, under the bill.

Manufacturers wouldn’t have to provide parts, tools or documentation for making modifications for certain public safety communications equipment, for home appliances with an embedded digital electronic product, or for any equipment “whose diagnosis, maintenance, or repair would be inconsistent with or in violation of federal law.” OEMs wouldn’t have to provide parts that are no longer available. Also, the bill includes exemptions for motor vehicles, medical devices and off-road equipment including farm and industrial equipment.

Right-to-repair advocates expressed glee at Friday's development, in a joint statement. "New Yorkers from Niagara Falls to Long Island won a hard-earned victory today,” said Nathan Proctor, senior director of the Public Interest Research Group’s Right to Repair Campaign. “This is a massive breakthrough” that will save consumers money, protect mom-and-pop repair shops and reduce unnecessary e-waste, he said. Legislators in dozens of states have introduced right-to-repair bills, “but New York is the first state to pass a law that covers popular consumer devices such as cell phones.” he said.

Every consumer in New York will “benefit from this landmark legislation,” said Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne. “We'll all be able to fix the stuff we like, stop being forced to buy new things we don't want, and make it possible for the secondary market to provide high quality options for reuse.” She later told us she knew there wouldn’t be much opposition in the floor vote, “but 145-1 is a huge thrill.”

New York’s passage of the bill is “a huge deal,” said iFixit's Wiens. “We're looking forward to working with manufacturers to get service documentation in the hands of more people.”

New York will be “a model for other states and Congress to follow,” said Consumer Reports Director-Advocacy Chuck Bell. CR Policy Analyst Nandita Sampath said New York consumers “are on the cusp of having real choices for fixing the devices they own, which can give them more convenient options, save them money, prevent waste, and help protect the environment.”

Tech industry opposition has scuttled bills in other states (see 2204060043), though the Entertainment Software Association, one long-term opponent, hailed the trade secret protections built into the final legislation. ESA applauds New York legislators “for recognizing the importance of intellectual property rights and ensuring that the protections players expect in video game devices remain secure,” said a spokesperson Friday.

CTA, which has opposed right-to-repair legislation for years, “is unable to provide a statement at this time,” emailed a spokesperson. The association told us in November its goal was striking a “balance” between safety and “empowering consumers to repair their own devices” (see 2111180003). But tech companies in the FTC’s two-year investigation into manufacturer repair restrictions provided no data to support their argument tying injuries to repairs performed by consumers or independent repair shops, reported the agency in May 2021 (see 2105070013).

CTIA declined to comment, but a spokesperson referred us to concerns that the wireless association by itself and with others raised in opposition memos last month. "The marketplace already provides a wide range of consumer choice for repair with varying levels of quality, price and convenience without the mandates imposed by this legislation," CTIA wrote May 10. "This bill is an unnecessary intervention in the marketplace, and its mandates could cause safety, privacy and security risks that compromise consumer safety and protection."

In other New York votes, the Senate voted 48-15 Thursday to send the governor S-8246/A-9269, a bill to add a 95-cent surcharge in Albany County to fund E911 (see 2205250036). The Assembly passed it in a 134-15 vote Tuesday. Also on Thursday, the legislature cleared a social media bill requiring a mechanism to report hate speech (see 2206020063). It was delivered Friday to Hochul.