Why electronics could soon be easier to repair in New York

New Yorkers with broken digital devices may soon have an easier time getting them repaired either on their own or by an independent repair shop under legislation approved Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The new law will require manufacturers to make available diagnostic manuals and equipment for making the repairs as well as tools. The measure, backed by consumer and environmental groups, is considered the first “right to repair” law in the country.

The measure was proposed in order to make it cheaper for repairs to be done to digital devices, which often need to be sent to a manufacturer in order to be fixed. Instead, the law will make it easier for repair shops or the consumers themselves to access manuals and tools.

There will be exceptions for the kind of equipment covered by the law, including home appliances, farm equipment and motor vehicles.

Environmental organizations cheered the approval of the law, saying it would cut down on potentially toxic electronic waste that has proliferated with the use of smartphones and other mobile devices becoming commonplace.

“Electronic waste is the fastest growing category of municipal solid waste, and simply put, it’s full of toxics. 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,” said Bobbie Wilding, the executive director of Clean+Healthy and Co-Chair of the JustGreen Partnership. “This results in too-frequent disposal of electronic devices that contain lead, PFAS, and bisphenols, all of which leach into the environment.”

The law is expected to take effect in the middle of next year.

“This year was another marked by strong action taken by New York State on reducing the public’s exposure to dangerous and toxic chemicals,” said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, who sponsored the measure with Sen. Neil Breslin. “Gov. Hochul’s approval of my Right to Repair legislation, the Digital Fair Repair Act, 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 reduction of exposure to dangerous and toxic classes of chemicals.”

Hochul’s approval came with an agreement with state lawmakers to make a series of changes to the bill, including provisions to address security concerns with password sharing for devices. Lawmakers and Hochul also agreed to clarifications for manufacturers to provide equipment at “reasonable costs” to repair shops or individual consumers, according to a memo released by the governor’s office.

And the agreement includes changes meant to ensure manufacturers are not required to provide licensed intellectual property.

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