back to article New York to get first right-to-repair law for electronics

Right-to-repair advocates are applauding the passage of New York's Digital Fair Repair Act, which state assembly members approved Friday in a 145–1 vote. The law bill, previously green-lit by the state senate in a 49-14 vote, now awaits the expected signature of New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D). Assuming the New York bill …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A start

    While the list of exceptions excludes more than it should, it's a good start.

    I would guess that as one of the top five agricultural states Big Green (Deere) had something to say about farm machinery but I'm not at all sure who lobbied for the exclusion of appliances.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A start

      "While the list of exceptions excludes more than it should, it's a good start."

      Yes. One of the occasions where feature creep could be a good thing, so long as it's adding more items to the list of "allowed to repair".

    2. G2
      Mushroom

      Re: A start

      it's simple: This is not a right-to-repair bill, it was hijacked to become a deny-any-repair bill.

      Please read the actual version of the law that was passed (A7006B) and not the one linked by TheRegister ( S4104 )

      ...S4104 is the initially proposed version, before it was nuked by ammendment "B" - yes.. the "B" version is important here.

      https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2021/A7006/amendment/b

      This new version "B" law is what was actually voted by the Assembly and it excludes practically all electronic devices - they use the language "INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO" when listing appliances (copy pasted text there, my caps lock is not stuck)

      And under federal US law an "appliance" can be practically ANY device used in a home.

      Laptops? LED TVs? they can be perfectly described as "appliances" because they fit the federal definition of what an "appliance" is:

      24 CFR § 3280.802 - Definitions

      (i) Appliance means utilization equipment, generally other than industrial, normally built in standardized sizes or types, which is installed or connected as a unit to perform one or more functions [...]

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: A start

        I was about to say, if California can rule that bees are fish, I'm pretty sure that Apple etc will find a way to get their phones & computers legally declared as "home appliances" for the purpose of skirting this law.

        1. Kabukiwookie Silver badge

          Re: A start

          Or clog up the courts indefinitely over the definjtion of a 'tool'.

          Software that allows serialised parts to be updated wit a new serial number? That's not a tool.

          1. MrDamage Silver badge

            Re: A start

            That would be the person who dreamed up that lawsuit, wouldn't it?

  2. DerekCurrie
    Go

    Look forward to more clunky devices, but...

    For those of us with the knack for repair, this is great.

    The pressure for decades has been for devices and components that are as compact and light as possible. That's going to have to be compromised.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Look forward to more clunky devices, but...

      Not really. Look at Fairphone and Framework. Both look good but both repairable.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Look forward to more clunky devices, but...

      It's a common misconception that somehow tiny parts are more difficult to replace.

      It's really the opposite - the smaller part the easier and quicker you can take it off a put a new one back on.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Look forward to more clunky devices, but...

        That's limited by human fingers /tools available.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Look forward to more clunky devices, but...

          Microscopes are affordable these days and yes, it's best not to drink too much coffee before fiddling with 0201 components...

  3. BlokeInTejas

    The right to repair is a legal thing.

    They'll sell you parts and info at a fair price....

    Doesn't mean the thing is practically repairable...

    You really think you can replace that M1-Ultra? and have it work? For how long? And how much is that M1-Ultra? Purchased in thousands, it's probably sorta OK - but thousands will cost quite a substantial sum, but one by one to an individual?

    1. Francis Boyle

      Yes, it's a legal thing but if it is in any way effective it will limit what companies can produce, or at least sell. The trick is to get the balance right so that measures intended to limit reparability (like, say, welding the case shut) are banned but design features that are intended to improve the product (like welding the case shut) aren't. You see the problem. I'm no lawyer, and obviously I haven't read the New York law, so I can say how well (or even if) it addresses this but it something that right to repair laws need to do.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        There will likely be some more forward thinking manufactures who already deal with similar legislation in other markets and there will be others who will adhere strictly to the letter of law, ignore the spirit and make it as difficult/expensive as possible for the end-user to get an out of warranty repair. My general sense is that US based companies will most likely be in the latter category.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      That depends if M1-Ultra is available - if they sell it and it has pre-applied balls then it is very easy to replace.

      Swapping these tiny components is miles easier than fiddling with through hole parts and smaller chips you can literally swap in seconds.

      1. TKW

        Even if they don't sell it, we'll be ahead. At the moment they're prohibiting component suppliers from supplying replacement parts to repairers and I can't see how that practice would continue to be legal.

    3. Solviva

      Replacing that M1-Ultra may be somewhat more difficult, but achievable by an experienced repair place. As you say, buying a new chip may render the repair non-economical, and you'll likely be waiting 3 or 4 months for delivery (in an ideal world, more than likely you'll be at the back of the queue and only get shipped the chip when they've started manufacturing and shipping the M2).

      That's by far not the only chip on the motherboard, most of them are likely a few to a few 10s of dollars so easily affordable for replacement. The problem comes when they are 'special' variants of a mostly standard part which the manufactures have a contract with Apple to sell to Apple only, and so not available on the open market. Need a $10 part replacing on your motherboard? Only way right now is to find a donor board to pull it off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re:Only way right now is to find a donor board to pull it off.

        Except some manufacturers make it so that doesn't work for more important parts.

        Was it Apple that had it so the phone checks the serial number of the camera? So if you replace the camera it will not work because it's a not the original camera. All fixable in an Apple approved repair shop because they have the software/equipment to re-pair the camera to the rest of the phone.

  4. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge
    Megaphone

    Great, but. I wonder how-effectively it'll be enforced

    I expect footdragging, passive-aggressive, fake-cooperation from the manufacturers.

    Manufacturer: "Here's the repair manual!". End-user: "There's no table of contents, no index, and some diagrams of what appear to be a completely different product." Mfr.: "So sorry, that'll be fixed in the next release." Three (or seven, or thirteen months later ...) "Rev 1.1 manual is now out!" End-user: "The TOC and index are here, but are mostly-wrong. Some diagrams are missing, and some part numbers look wrong." Mfr.: "So sorry, we'll fix that in the next release." Ad infinitum.

    Meanwhile, the manufacturer crows, "Look, Mr/Ms Regulator: we're complying! See our website! Everything you need is here!"

    (Icon for mfr. proclaiming "compliance".)

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Great, but. I wonder how-effectively it'll be enforced

      Many "manufacturers" don't even have schematics when they "design" their products to be made in china.

      For instance, Chinese fab will send a list of modules they have and you can ask for slight modifications like board shape, placement of connectors, buttons etc. They'll make you a few samples and if you are happy you just order whatever quantity you need. But you don't get schematics.

      The reason is that you can't copyright schematics. Nothing would stop you from taking a small order and then taking the design to a cheaper fab.

      I mean it's not a rocket science to spin up your own boards anyway - most designs don't stray away from what is in datasheets anyway, but there is not many people that can actually do this, because we killed that industry.

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Great, but. I wonder how-effectively it'll be enforced

      Another real problem that I and I imagine most folks who try to repair their stuff run into from time to time is repair parts that are on the parts diagram, have a part number, maybe even have a price published, but aren't available. And that isn't necessarily the result of malice. My understanding is that what happens is that when specialized parts for machines are made or ordered from a supplier, a certain number of spares are made/ordered. After the parts are made, the tooling is reconfigured for the next order. Those extra parts are the repair parts. Ideally, there are just enough of them that the parts bin is empty when the last device in service is scrapped many years in the future. But no one is smart enough to guess the exact number of spares that will be needed for the next X years. And tooling up to make more spares would be expensive so it doesn't often happen. So sometimes you need to cobble together a substitute or find a used part.

      Maybe someday in a better world, 3d printing will solve this problem. But 3d printers that can make a wide variety of parts on demand at reasonable unit cost probably are a good many decades away.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple announces new iphone 15 will have a laser welded titanium case and a new battery with Novichok.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      But they will supply new novichok at fair and reasonable prices.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        But they will supply new novichok at fair and reasonable prices.

        And they will provide the recipe for free, leaving the problem of sourcing the ingredients to the customer.

  6. steviebuk Silver badge

    80s

    Can't we go back to the 80s. My mums work friends husband came round to take a look at the TV in the backroom that had stopped working. He opened the back to take a look and there on the back case was the schematics for the TV. He traced what he needed to, soldered what needed soldering and now we had a working TV again.

    The other day I pulled out our washing machine, cheap Chinese brand I believe. The filter door was jammed so I couldn't clean out the filter. Looked up on YouTube and thankfully someone had done videos on other brands which allowed me to work out how to partly strip it to get to the filter. No amount of searching was revealing a service manual. No, they just want you to land fill the washing machine and buy the latest. Eventually I managed to get my way to the door, unjam it and now its all fine again. Saved me having to pay an engineer who I couldn't afford or buying a new machine.

    1. Tony W

      Re: 80s

      Unfortunately I presume that tthis law wouldn't have helped you as a washing machine is a home appliance. For me, appliances are the most important things to allow repairs for, as they don't go out of date so fast as phones and computers, and binning them produces a lot of waste.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: 80s

        "and binning them produces a lot of waste."

        Yes...but 95% easily recyclable! ie, it's mainly metal and some plastics. It might have more electronics than a phone which are not easily recyclable, but it's still only a tiny amount of the whole unit. If more can be recycled, then it must be good, yes? Just ignore the 5-10x more e-waste than a phone. </sarc>

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: 80s

      Ah TV repair, that was a great excuse to have a supply Diethyl ether. Nothing better to fall into heavenly sleep in front of an open back of a TV with cathode ray tube staring right into your eyes.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      Do you also want to return

      To TVs made with a bunch of discrete parts so they come inside a big cabinet that's treated as furniture?

      If every chip was socketed, every resistor and capacitor large enough that you could remove/replace it with a standard soldering iron, not only would that TV cost much more it would be more prone to failure (i.e. heat cycling slowly pushing chips out of sockets)

      They didn't change the way they made things as part of a secret strategy to prevent repairs. They did it because it was cheaper and more reliable.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Do you also want to return

        "(i.e. heat cycling slowly pushing chips out of sockets)"

        Easily fixed by going back to valves (or tubes if your prefer) with spring metal retainers. Thermal creep was a thing before socketed chips but the solution was forgotten :-)

      2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Do you also want to return

        That really isn't what's being advocated here. Try to lay off the hyperbole.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: 80s

      This is why you buy a decent brand, mostly because they do provide repairability manuals for their engineers which inevitably end up on t'Internet at something like repairmanual.com. Indesit are part of the mega-conglomerate Whirlpool, but I was able to find manuals for replacing a) the door handle for my washer (badly designed and easily broken off if you forget it has a 5-minute post-wash lock), and b) the draining impeller pump (turns out the impeller head just needed glueing back in for mine). Youtube and Google are in this case absolute lifesavers because I'll be damned if I had to throw out my 20-year-old washer purely because a plastic part either broke or got detached. £30 on eBay and Bob was my uncle. :-)

  7. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Louis

    No mention of Louis? It wouldn't have happened without his contributions...

    1. VoiceOfTruth

      Re: Louis

      He has a response here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_3FXnqeUpQ

  8. LazLong

    Too many exclusions

    I wonder what the rationale was for excluding home appliances, beyond money from lobbyists?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Too many exclusions

      I wonder what the rationale was for excluding home appliances, beyond money from lobbyists?

      What other rationale would be needed?

    2. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Too many exclusions

      Here’s hoping that mobiles and laptops aren’t counted as home appliances…

  9. Nifty Silver badge

    Most of the comments above seem to refer to at-home repairs. The real goal is that competent independent back-street and mobile repairers should be able to get schematics, parts and info to be able to repair stuff. Too much emphasis on home repairing and how long before the first home repair disaster/explosion/fire is in the media? Story heavily promoted by the relevant industry of course.

    1. F. Frederick Skitty

      Good point, particularly with so much stuff having Lithium based batteries in them nowadays - as Big Clive on YouTube has demonstrated, those can get quite hot and fiery.

      For non-battery powered stuff, I'm actually in a minority of people who doesn't mind wall warts versus built in power supplies. Replacing a wall wart is typically a lot easier than getting a replacement transformer for an internal power supply, and means less likelihood of dangerous voltages inside a device.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        And is generally done for the very practical reason that it's much simpler and easier to choose and supply an external already type-approved power supply than it is to do the necessary certification and testing regime for each country into which you might like to sell - internal mains power supplies are a bad idea for all sorts of reasons.

        A definite case of 'someone else's problem', and a generally good solution, as well as for the practical reasons you mention.

      2. Seldon-chan

        <quote>For non-battery powered stuff, I'm actually in a minority of people who doesn't mind wall warts versus built in power supplies.</quote>

        But the wall-warts wouldn't be nearly as irritating of the "warts" weren't *at the wall*. A lot more usage of standard IEC C7/C8 would be preferable (and a bog-standard part readily procured by the manufacturer in bulk, and readily replaced at the consumer end).

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    It's not about phones

    Car makers have a problem. Car dealers don't make money on new sales, they make it all on servicing and trade-ins. Electric cars don't need servicing,

    Traditional car makers need a way of locking you into their dealer network permanently.

    So arrange that the software is only available to dealers, and the license to the software in your car doesn't transfer with the car.

    You now have a choice. Trade in your car to the dealer to buy this years model - or try and sell a used car that can't start because the engine management software is locked because it didn't get a 'security' update.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Electric cars don't need servicing

      So you're saying EVs don't have brakes, suspension, steering, hydraulics, coolant, aircon, tyres, perishable rubber components, bearings, things that need annual lubrication?

      Pretty sure there are still plenty of things to service. Sure there's no engine, no exhaust, sometimes no gearbox. But now there's loads more sensitive electronics and electrically driven pumps. Plenty still to go wrong.

      Agree with your other points.

  11. Disk0

    No mention of EU?

    With similar regulations in the works. We don’t import that many vehicles and appliances (from the US) but millions of digital devices (grom US companies) it’s becoming worthwhile for manufacturers to offer at least some level of repairability. Which is good for everybody.

  12. Binraider Silver badge

    It's a start. Ever had to get a CPU board for a washing machine?

    A standardised, simple embedded controller with I/o interface would go a long way. Would not be at all difficult to create, though of course everyone would want to sell their version.

    Maybe there's space in this world for a DIY appliance toolkit? Just as we build our own PCs. I mean is it that far a cry from Arduino to do it?

    1. Seldon-chan

      <quote>It's a start. Ever had to get a CPU board for a washing machine?</quote>

      Or a control board for a Kenmore electric range (plus it's wiring harness). Both listed in the parts catalog, but usually on permanent national backorder.

  13. Paul Uszak

    We don't want that here.

    Why the hell are we talking about the US on this English website? Non of this applies here, and the English are too stupid to allow it. Safety comes first and foremost. Don't forget that the CGI Lurpak man on a skateboard wore a helmet in case he fell and got hurt. I'm honestly ashamed.

    A précis is: How can I change my oil filter on my 2022 Mazda 6? How do I change my HV light bulbs without being killed? I can't because the service manual is secret. Get that done Boris, or would you rather have your flat re-redecorated courtesy of Ford?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: We don't want that here.

      1. The Register is international in scope and even has offices in the US an AUS.

      2. Here in the UK, there is already Right To Repair legislation, 2 year warranties, a sliding scale of rights on items with an "expected lifetime" that includes some parts and labour outside of the normal warranty and some very good consumer rights.

      3. Sometimes it's good to see how parts of the world compare with other parts.

      1. OhForF'

        Re: We do want that here.

        4. US sometimes has an impact on east pondians

        A lot of big companies have their head quarters in the US but sell the same product all over the world. If a local law in one of their core markets forces them to give out information and parts to repair the kit it can have a world wide impact.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: We do want that here.

          Agreed. Which is why the industry is so desperate to resist these new laws in the US, as that would give real teeth to how they have to engage with independent repairers. I think East Pondian laws aren’t good enough to make manufacturers design for repair and sell spare parts. US laws / court enforcement mandating could get across that line.

    2. naive

      Re: We don't want that here.

      The US has legislation dating back to the 70's (?) where car manufacturers are obliged to make available technical information enabling independent repair shops service cars. For instance, Bentley Publishers make excellent repair manuals for several brands of cars, covering everything from engine service to repairing door locks.

      Once spare parts, manuals etc are available in New York for the equipment covered by the right to repair law, European shops will be able to buy these through US resellers. Manufacturers have a little loophole there, since they could start making US specific models.

      Europe will lag behind since the EU commission in Brussels fulfills all the formal criteria of a fascist state, being a collusion of powerful national industry interests, appointed politicians and a tightly controlled press, who have no obligations towards voters. Unlike the USA Europe does not even have legal path ways allowing consumers to enforce creation of legislation that would enforce right to repair, we all live by the good grace of her Highness Empress von der Leyen. It is strange people have to buy manuals in the USA to repair their German made beamer, but that is how life is in a fascist state. Not being part of the EU, creative entrepreneurs in England could maybe make a buck selling services and goods to repair shops on the continent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We don't want that here.

        Downvoted, because of the unfounded comments about the EU commission. Also, regardless of the strength of your feelings, calling them fascist is a bit over the top, especially given that in the last UK general election, more people voted for political parties that wanted to either remain in the EU or have a second referendum than for parties that wanted the hard Brexit that we got. I therefore wouldn't say we had a perfectly functioning democracy in the UK right now. Pot calling kettle black?

        BTW, have you heard of the European working time directive? Not everything that comes out of the EU commission is bad.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We don't want that here.

        So ... never heard of Haynes manuals, then? (written in the UK whilst in the EU)

  14. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Expect an arms race of loopholes, dodges and outrageous pseudo-compliance

    Haven't Apple already tried the special-screwdriver-that-can-only-be-bought-from-Apple-at-a-huge-price trick?

    Next they'll be paying the glue manufacturers to lobby for Right-To-Glue legislation.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Expect an arms race of loopholes, dodges and outrageous pseudo-compliance

      "Next they'll be paying the glue manufacturers to lobby for Right-To-Glue legislation."

      That has the sniff of chemical induced paranoia.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A WIN, Finally

    Well Done To Louis Rossman and his Lobbyists as well as His Multimillionaire and other Backers who have invested heavily to turn the tide against disposable electronics.

    If you are not aware Rossman Repair Group have YouTube channels promoting live repairs to various Apple products and his Rants about NYC property prices and the upcoming resetting of the broken financial system which promotes sitting on property in debt and charging excessively unreasonable rents.

    At the moment some of RRG are on holiday in Florida. So a bit short on the very popular cat videos.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    D.I.Y.

    My entire family do as much repair as is possible (and legally permitted). The list of things we actually can repair, and do so economically, is steadily shrinking. The next generation is going to have a tough time.

  17. StinkyMcStinkFace

    You are going about this the wrong way. Apple is abusive to it's customers, so boycott them. I have boycotted them even long before this right to repair thing was a thing. In fact, my company gave me an iPhone for business use, for free, and I made them replace it with another manufacturer, I will NOT use any apple device for any reason.

    In the 15 minutes I had my iPhone, I tried to install a 2-factor device, the very first thing I did with it. And I was told I could not, as it was an approved by Apple device.

    F- YOU apple. I hate you, and I hate your products. Bye.

  18. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    The law bill, previously green-lit by the state senate in a 49-14 vote, now awaits the expected signature of New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D).

    The weakest link and can be attacked with a good dose of lobbying, bribes and the such.

    1. AndyMulhearn

      The weakest link and can be attacked with a good dose of lobbying, bribes and the such.

      The best politicians money can buy...

      1. A2Wx8
        Meh

        From someone familiar with NY politics...

        If these are the best politicans money can buy I'd hate to see what the cheap ones are like.

        Though in all fairness good on them for passing this - would have preferred a version that didn't have exceptions and holes you could sail a freighter full of dodgy electronics from China through, but it's far better than nothing.

        I really do wish they'd omitted the car exception - the current federal repair laws on the books don't really apply to EVs and the dealers on this side of the pond only rise to "mostly terrible" in rare and blessed occasions. Some competition in that arena would be nice.

  19. vincent himpe

    no sppliances ? -fail-

    so if my refrigerator, dishwasher, garage door opener or tv breaks i'm SOL.... even my blender. bye bye margaritas ...

    luckily i still have my soldering iron.

  20. Randesigner

    Licensed Hardware

    It seems a way around a law like this would be to require users to license their hardware/phone instead of owning it, similar to the software model. Even worse, a monthly subscription. The manufacturers could end-of-life the product at any time.

    Maybe I should delete this comment and not give them any ideas.

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