Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of. Fortunately, the folks over at the Fight to Repair newsletter are here to help: recapping the most important repair news for iFixit readers. As a special offer, iFixit.com readers can claim a free, 60-day premium membership to the Fight to Repair newsletter. Visit fighttorepair.substack.com/ifixit to claim your premium membership!
Back in December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul got attention for her work to gut a bipartisan electronic right to repair bill—passed with veto-proof majorities through the State legislature—and introduce a raft of industry and manufacturer-friendly changes.
It was clear, at the time, that Hochul bowed to an intense lobbying campaign by TechNet, the tech industry lobby, as well as companies like Apple who lobbied the governor directly to veto the bill. But what concessions did those companies specifically ask for—and obtain? The reporter Maddie Stone breaks it out in a new report via Grist, detailing the countless concessions that lobbyists finagled from New York’s newly re-elected governor.
Among the revelations in Stone’s piece:
- Documents that Repair.org shared with Grist show that FTC staff were highly critical of many of the changes Hochul proposed at the behest of tech industry lobbyists. The parts assembly provision, one commission staffer wrote in response to TechNet’s edits, “could be easily abused by a manufacturer” to create a two-tiered system in which individual components like batteries are available only to authorized repair partners.
- The FTC and pro-repair groups told Hochul that another of TechNet’s proposed changes—deleting a requirement that manufacturers give owners and independent shops the ability to reset security locks in order to conduct repairs—could result in a “hollow right to repair” in which security systems thwart people from fixing their stuff, the staffer wrote.
The TechNet edits “all have a common theme,” Dan Salsburg, a chief counsel for the FTC’s Office of Technology, Research and Investigation, wrote in an email to Fahy’s office. Namely: “ensuring that manufacturers retain control over the market for the repair of their products.”
Despite the agency’s stern warning, all of the changes described above, and numerous other edits TechNet proposed, appeared in the bill Hochul signed, many of them verbatim.
Stone’s story is just the latest to describe Governor Hochul’s willingness to ignore warnings from repair advocates in favor of anti-repair arguments made by Silicon Valley giants and manufacturers. Previous reports have noted that the Governor and her staff ignored repeated briefings from experts that warnings about cybersecurity risk made by anti-repair groups were unfounded.
The cost of the Governor’s concessions will be borne by New York consumers and small businesses. Stone quotes Todd Bone, the president of XS International, a company that maintains and repairs network and data center IT equipment for corporations and the federal government, as saying that the New York law offers “nothing” to his business because of the governor’s carveout for devices sold under business-to-business or government contracts.
“It was very disheartening,” Bone told Grist, “to see the governor working with TechNet and not paying attention to the votes from the Congress and the Senate in the state of New York, [and] what the consumers of the state of New York wanted.”
- Does putting your EV in rice fix it? YouTuber Rich Rebuilds attempted to restore a hurricane flood-damaged Audi E-Tron by drying it out with 4,200 pounds of expired rice. The attempt resulted in the car powering on and moving under its own power, but with many fault codes displayed on the dashboard. Likely, any drying would’ve happened without the rice—because rice is for dinner, not for repair.
- 3D printing glasses challenge monopoly: One company, Luxottica, controls the majority of the major brands in the $28 billion global eyeglasses industry. A new 3D printing project allowing people to easily print frames aims to disrupt that market power.
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- U.S. starts 2023 with mixed bag of repair legislation: The U.S. has seen a flurry of bills in the past month with the start of a number of legislative sessions – but not every bill is making it through key stumbling blocks:
- Colorado introduces agricultural bill: Colorado lawmakers are trying to pass House Bill 1011 to grant Coloradans the right to repair their agricultural equipment. The bill requires manufacturers to sell tools, parts, and digital access to farmers and independent repair shops to diagnose and fix problems with equipment starting in 2024. The bill is opposed by manufacturers who argue that it would give individuals the ability to tamper with equipment beyond repairs.
- Montana halts wheelchair bill: A bill that would have required motorized wheelchair manufacturers to provide information (manuals and some software) to enable repairs by the users or independent repair shops was narrowly voted down in Montana. Safety concerns were the chief argument against the bill, with Republicans and a medical device trade association arguing users would damage their chairs. But in Colorado, wheelchair users already benefitting from the wheelchair bill that passed last year.
- Washington Electronics Bill: Bill AB1392 aims to promote the fair and sustainable repair of digital electronic equipment like computers, phones, and tablets. The focus of the bill is to increase the affordability and accessibility of repairs for both rural and low-income consumers.
- Watch the hearing from the Consumer Protection and Business Committee.