NY Considering Legislation To Make Phone And Laptop Repair More Affordable
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New York is considering legislation that could make it easier to repair your broken phone or laptop.
Right to Repair Laws – which have been around for a long time struggle to gain a foothold in state houses across the country – promise to make repairing their digital devices cheaper and easier for consumers, but critics denounce the practice as a threat to safety and security.
Now, with renewed attention from lawmakers and activists, New York may become the first state to make the right to repair a reality.
“It’s a bill, I think the time is right for it,” said Russ Haven, general counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which supports the legislation. “We have a good coalition.
The Right to Repair is a movement that seeks to require manufacturers of digital devices – such as consumer electronics, tractors and medical equipment – to provide the parts, tools and knowledge necessary to repair. products. Manufacturers often restrict these resources, making it difficult or impossible for consumers or third-party repair shops to repair their devices.
Advocates of the right to repair characterize manufacturers’ restrictions as monopolistic since they allow companies to price repairs without facing competition. And advocates have called for legislation to counter it.
The Digital Fair Repair Act – a bill on the right to repair – was passed by the New York State Senate in June 2021, making it the first law of its kind to authorize the legislature of a state. But it still faces major challenges before it becomes law.
It kind of transcends ideological lines. There are people left and right who agree on this one.
Russ Haven, General Counsel of the New York Public Interest Research Group
Haven said the legislation enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, with 51 of 63 senators voting in favor. He thinks he could pass it again if another vote is needed.
“It kind of transcends ideological lines. There are people left and right who agree on this one, ”he said.
But the state assembly will be “a harder nut to crack,” said Jeff Williams, director of public policy at the New York Farm Bureau, which supports the legislation.
Part of what makes the Right to Repair movement unique – and what has enabled it to garner bipartisan support – is its diverse base of supporters. The movement has brought together consumer rights activists, environmentalists, owners of third-party repair shops, farmers and disability rights activists against tech companies that restrict repairs.
Most people find out about the hurdles manufacturers place in fixing after breaking their phone or laptop, Haven and Williams said. But the barriers also impact the technology that enables people to earn a living or take care of their health.
For example, the farmers that Williams advocates are strongly impacted, as they are often trained to repair their own equipment but are prevented from doing so by software locks put in place by the manufacturer. Calling in a certified technician to unlock these “digital keys” can cost farmers days of labor, Williams said.
This, in turn, can cost farmers thousands of dollars in lost crops, especially on critical planting or harvest days, he said.
The right to repair faces strong opposition from powerful companies and the lobby groups they support, said Kevin Purdy, advocate for the right to repair with iFixit, an online repository of repair guides and diagrams provided by users. Manufacturers have repeatedly succeeded in stifling right to repair legislation at the federal level and in state houses across the country, he said.
These companies cite a number of concerns about letting consumers or third-party stores repair their products. Anti-right to repair lobbyists argue that allowing customers to open their devices will give hackers an advantage or put customers at risk. Providing schematics would also violate their intellectual property rights, according to many companies.
A federal trade commission report said some claims made by anti-right to redress activists are exaggerated, but corporate concerns have been enough to deter lawmakers in the past.
The federal government also took action on the right to repair recently, with President Biden ordered the FTC to determine whether the remedy restrictions violate antitrust rules.
Even with this federal action, Purdy said state-level legislation would likely have a bigger impact.
“The FTC is unlikely to tackle something as large as any manufacturer of a good that offers a repair network,” he said. “Usually you need a law to enact something larger like this. “
Purdy compared the digital right to repair legislation in New York to a referendum in Massachusetts in 2012 that forced automakers to grant the right to repair to third-party mechanics across the country.
The same, he said, could happen with digital technology: a state acts and companies change their policies nationwide accordingly.
New York, if it passes the Digital Fair Repair Act or something similar, could be at the forefront of a new repair economy, Purdy said.
Posted on October 27, 2021 at 12:11 a.m.
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