Right-to-Repair Movement for Electronics Off to Shaky Start

New York State is first to pass right-to-repair legislation affecting electronics, but the bill has apparent loopholes.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

January 20, 2023

2 Min Read
New York State is implementing right-to-repair for electronics, but not all aspects of some products are covered.Image courtesy of Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

For several years, consumers have been advocating for states to pass right-to-repair bills for electronics, which would in effect give the right for consumers and independent repair shops to get the parts and information from OEMs they need to repair their own phones and other consumer electronics devices. New York State has recently become the first state to pass an electronics right-to-repair bill, which would take effect July 1, 2023.

The bill, signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, would require manufacturers to make available diagnostic and repair information, as well as parts for most digital electronic equipment, to consumers and independent repair businesses “on fair and reasonable terms.” The law would apply to digital electronic equipment that is both manufactured for the first time as well as sold or used in New York for the first time on or after July 1.

But in its present form, the right-to-repair bill New York State passed may fall short of addressing some consumer concerns, thanks to last-minute modifications in the legislation. For one, manufacturers may provide assemblies of parts, rather than individual components, if there is concern the risk of improper installation heightens the chance of injury. The bill has also been amended to exempt digital products that are the subject of business-to-business or business-to-government sales.

Related:Samsung Doing an About Face on Right to Repair?

In addition, OEMs won’t be required to license any IP. And, the legislation does not apply to motor vehicles, medical devices, and off-road equipment for farming and construction.

The bill states that businesses violating the right-to-repair law would face penalties of up to $500 for each violation.

Pushback from Electronics Companies

Already, there’s evidence that major consumer electronics companies are trying to weasel their away around impending right-to-repair legislation. One recent video, by You Tuber Louis Rossman alleges Samsung is aiming to block third-party suppliers of mobile phone parts from importing replacement parts. Several other videos indicate Samsung is preventing recalibration of the fingerprint sensor in several of its mobile phones if the display screen is swapped out.  

Before the amended bill was passed, the proposed legislation faced immense opposition from business groups contending that electronics manufacturers would be forced to send potentially sensitive data on their products to repair providers. The bill as passed indicates these business groups may have influenced the final terms of the bill.

Related:Not All iPhone 14 Smartphones Are Alike

At the moment, New York state is alone in having a right-to-repair bill covering electronics. However, other states are reportedly debating similar legislation as well. Right-to-repair legislation is also being discussed in other global regions such as Europe.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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