This was a huge week for Right to Repair advocates, with Colorado’s governor signing into law the first new Right to Repair bill in a decade (covering power wheelchairs), while New York legislators sent the Digital Fair Repair Act to that state’s governor to sign.
Each week, we’ll bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.
The Big News:
Our Cup Runneth Over! CO Governor Signs Wheelchair Repair Into Law; NY Legislature Sends Fair Repair Act to Governor
These little town blues are fading away … after the New York Assembly voted 145-1 on Friday afternoon to pass Assembly Bill A7006B, The Digital Fair Repair Act. In doing so, New York became the first state legislature in the nation to enact a right to repair consumer electronics, after the state Senate passed S4104A, an identical bill, on Thursday.
The news came on the heels of a momentous day Thursday, when Colorado’s Governor, Jared Polis, signed into law a first-in-the-nation Right to Repair Wheelchairs law—the first non-automotive Right to Repair law ever passed in the U.S.
A Milestone After Years of Disappointments
This is a milestone—the culmination of years of work by Right to Repair advocates who, previously, had seen more than 100 pieces of legislation killed off, typically in closed committee sessions under heavy lobbying from high tech firms like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, and others.
But not this time. The Fair Repair Act had a team of shepherds: NYPIRG (the state chapter of the Public Interest Research Group) and the Repair Coalition worked with sponsors NY Assemblymember Patricia Fahy and State Senator Neil Breslin to get the act through committees and to the floors of the Assembly and Senate for a vote. In addition to the 145–1 slam dunk in the Assembly, the Senate bill passed 59–4, both “veto-proof” majorities with both measures winning solid Democratic and Republican support.
The bill covers a wide range of devices with a microprocessor, including cell phones, tablets, and IT equipment. For manufacturers covered by the law, it will require them to make repair materials—parts, tools, and service information—available to consumers and independent repair providers on fair and reasonable terms.
“This is a terrific win for consumers, local businesses, and the environment,” said Russ Haven, NYPIRG General Counsel, in a statement (PDF). “New Yorkers just want to fix their stuff. We know that repair cuts waste and saves them money. But too many of the things we are trying to fix have unnecessary barriers because most of the top manufacturers won’t provide access to spare parts, repair software, or service diagrams.”
A Win for Consumers, Small Business, and the Environment
Still, it isn’t perfect. To see it through to the final passage, carve-outs were made for automobiles, farm and heavy equipment, appliances, police radios, medical equipment, and gaming consoles.
A First Step … but More to Do
“New Yorkers from Niagara Falls to Long Island won a hard-earned victory today—and if repair can make it there, it can make it everywhere. This is a massive breakthrough for our efforts nationally,” said U.S. PIRG’s Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor, who coordinates Right to Repair work for PIRG nationally.
“This bill is about much more than New York. It’s the first crack in the dam,” said Kyle Wiens, the CEO and co-founder of iFixit.com, the Internet’s largest repair website. “Once repair information and tools are online, they’re going to be available to people everywhere in the world. It’s imperative that we build a fixable world and make all our stuff last longer. This is exactly the right step forward that we needed.”
And passage in the New York Legislature is the second big win of the week for repair advocates. On Thursday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law two bills that, together, create a legal Right to Repair power wheelchairs in Colorado: House Bill 22-1031 and House Bill 22-1290, which contains reforms to Colorado’s state Medicaid program designed to streamline owner and independent repair of the devices.
Together, the bills will transform a dysfunctional and constrained market for power wheelchair parts, service, and repair that has wheelchair users in the state waiting weeks—even months—to see simple repairs completed. The plight of Colorado wheelchair users got attention in the press, like Vice’s coverage of this 2021 hearing on a Right to Repair law in which wheelchair users testified about the challenges they face.
Time to celebrate!
Power wheelchair users have long been fighting for the right to repair their wheelchairs themselves or through independent repair shops. Medicare and most insurance companies will replace complex wheelchairs only every five years. Medicare pays only for parts and labor, not for technicians’ travel time. Another cause for delays: Medicare sometimes requires physicians to document that an individual still needs a wheelchair and that it needs to be repaired.
The wheelchair suppliers that have contracts with public and private health insurance plans also restrict access to parts, tools, and service manuals. They usually keep a limited inventory of parts on hand and wait until health plans approve repair claims before ordering parts. Wheelchair suppliers make most of their money by selling the wheelchair and tend to lose money on repairs. So there is little incentive to hire more technicians or pay for training.
A farmer in Missouri said he had to complain to the Federal Trade Commission in order to get his tractor repaired by the only John Deere dealership in his area, showing how without the Right to Repair, farmers are bound by the whims of the corporations who have a monopoly on repair.
It’s a lot of drama for one farmer to deal with. But Wilson is a fifth-generation farmer whose family has used John Deere for decades. He likes the product, but he doesn’t like their repair restrictions and he doesn’t particularly like Heritage Tractor. But Heritage Tractor is the only reasonably close repair shop, according to the affidavit.
Repair guides for machines designed to move slowly and get big jobs done, including farm vehicles and construction vehicles designed for specialty tasks.View Device
Manufacturing new devices still largely relies on polluting sources of energy. To grab an example, let’s look into Apple’s manufacturing data. Mining and manufacturing materials for the newest iPhone, for example, represents roughly 83% of its contribution to the heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere throughout its life cycle. That’s an up-front carbon cost, which (if things went Apple’s way) would be a repeating cycle every year as every user invests in a shiny new model. (techhq.com)
Researchers suspect a service called checkm8.info is used by criminals to launder stolen iPhones. The tool’s administrator claims the service is just a response to Apple’s poor Right to Repair policies. This underground group is offering people a way to bypass activation locks (which bricks devices) from certain iPhones with its pay-for-hacking service. iOS security experts suspect it is being used to remove protections from stolen iPhones. The hacking group, which lifts its name from a popular free-to-use jailbreak, insists its tool cannot be used by thieves.
Advocates of the laws say manufacturers are protecting themselves. Opponents say the laws will hurt consumers. As any consumer knows all too well, products break. And when they break—well, that’s where things can get tricky. Consumers who want to fix their own damaged devices, or take them to an independent repair shop, can face challenges. That’s because manufacturers of many products—especially those with computer chips—often limit who has access to the parts, tools, and information needed to perform repairs.