The US state of New York is the first to legislate a right to repair for electronic products. At the last minute, however, the law was drastically changed so that it now hardly entails any additional rights for private individuals and smaller repair businesses.
Governor signs amended version of bill
Last summer, the New York State Senate voted in favor of a bill that would give individuals the right to repair electronic equipment they purchased. Manufacturers would thus be required to provide assembly instructions, wiring diagrams, and other essential information about their devices, as well as replacement parts and restriction-free access to all parts of the device necessary for repair. New York thus saw itself as a pioneer within the USA as well as worldwide. The right to repair was intended to lead to more sustainable consumer behavior, thereby curbing ecological problems caused by mass consumption, and to reduce social inequality by making access to functioning electronic devices, which are central to social participation, more affordable in the long term.
However, all of this is now off the table. The law did go into effect. However, Governor Kathy Hochul did not sign the version approved by the legislature, but a modified version of the law that contains numerous restrictions. For example, manufacturers are now still allowed to sell spare parts packages instead of individual parts. This significantly increases the repair costs for private individuals, who now cannot necessarily buy a new display, but have to purchase a package consisting of display, battery and motherboard. The right to obtain passwords, codes or materials needed to access certain parts of the device has also been eliminated. In practice, this means that repairs will remain largely impossible without resorting to appropriate licensed repair shops.
Another change concerns the validity of the law. It is now envisaged that only devices produced or sold in New York from June 2023 will be covered. Accordingly, the right to repair will not apply to any equipment purchased before then.
Widespread criticism of amendment
The last-minute amendment to the law has drawn widespread criticism. In the context of this, reference is repeatedly made to the fact that the law in its current form is factually ineffective. Furthermore, the criticism is aimed at the fact that ultimately the interests of large companies have been placed above those of private individuals, whom the law is actually supposed to protect.