On December 28th, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Bill, a full year after the original bill was passed by New York Stat Legislature. The original bill establishes consumers and repair providers have the right to obtain manuals, diagrams, diagnostics and parts from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). These materials are required to repair their own devices.
However, bill was compromised at the last minute by amendments. Most give OEMs exceptions and loopholes out of obligations of the bill. One of which is that it allows OEMs to sell assemblies of parts instead of individual components. Another is not requiring OEMs to provide methods to bypass security features that are necessary to repair a device such as replacing a touchscreen.
On March 2021, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a 56 Page report on Right to Repair restrictions. Their conclusion, majority of OEM repair restrictions are not supported by the record and that they supported the Right to repair movement.
There are some safety risks, however, these can be addressed for those individuals whom wish to repair their own devices and repair shops by providing repair information and guidance from reputable sources. The other portion is being aware of safety warnings or precautions provided by manufacture. Not every individual will likely repair their own device and will seek out repair shops instead whom have necessary skills and most electronic knowledge.
Overall, there are monopolies within the repair industry placing heavy restrictions on limiting only OEMs can repair their branded equipment. Often independent repair shops will have an agreement to ship either entire or portion of a device to OEM repair facility, get device schematics else where or unable to perform the work.
Some say OEMs’ repairs are more secure, this is untrue. Large companies are often being found of customer data being copied. Often being leaked elsewhere on the internet by either their own employees or contractors they have working on repairs. Smaller businesses usually cannot deal with that type of legal liability as it would end their business. Ideally, depending on product and issue, customer’s would be able to hold onto their storage medium containing their data while it’s being repaired.
Climate Change is another factor to consider, tons of these products, both commercial and consumer, use quite a bit of Earth’s limited resources to be created. A lot of these products end up being replaced and turned to e-waste either properly disposed at e-waste facilities or in the landfill. We are unable to repair them without schematics, parts, and knowledge to bypass some security features to fix a product physically without going through OEM. This typically includes shipping a full product, causing more CO2 production, to a repair center halfway or across the country.
Circular Economy from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Reduce,Reuse, Recycle. Recycling is the last option, not the 1st. Repairing damaged/broken devices would be reducing and reusing. China’s electronic market in Shenzhen is mostly composed of reusing legacy components (mostly tested) from previous electronics and using them either new or repairing existing products.
Why can’t we have the right to repair and do the same?
If we did, there would be a larger job market for repairs and we would be able to innovate to scale up reducing, reusing, and recycling e-waste.
- “Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions” (Federal Trade Commision, 2021) – https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/nixing-fix-ftc-report-congress-repair-restrictions/nixing_the_fix_report_final_5521_630pm-508_002.pdf
- “The Right to Repair Movement: A Primer” (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 2021) https://www.eff.org/issues/right-to-repair
- Jon Campbell’s Twitter Post 2022: https://twitter.com/JonCampbellNY/status/1608327624526548993