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New York's weak right to repair bill is now in effect, and changes almost nothing

Apple Repair Program

New York was the first US state to pass a Right to Repair bill, which is now law, but it's so weak and watered down, it is effectively worthless for consumers.

Following its passage through the New York State Senate in 2021, and passage in the last days of 2022, New York has now officially enacted an electronics Right to Repair bill. It concerns electronic devices, with certain exceptions, that were sold for the first time in New York after July 1, 2023.

"As technology and smart devices become increasingly essential to the lives of New Yorkers," New York governor Kathy Hochul wrote in a public memo in 2023. "It is important for consumers to be able to fix the devices that they rely on in a timely fashion."

"This legislation would enhance consumer options in the repair markets by granting them greater access to the parts, tools and documents needed for repairs," she continued. "Encouraging consumers to maximize the lifespan of their devices through repairs is a laudable goal to save money and reduce electronic waste."

But, she introduced amendments at the time, and huge carve-outs, that cede effectively nothing. For instance, Apple doesn't have to change anything notable in how it does business, and the self-repair program exceeds what New York's law demands.

The law is clear that it "allows for original equipment manufacturers may provide assemblies of parts rather than individual components when the risk of improper installation heightens the risk of injury." Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others, classify all of the available parts under this carve-out, and New York does not disagree.

Board swap is how Apple service works now at every level. Whether at an Apple Store, authorized service center, or through self repair, Apple requires "core" returns of assemblies like entire boards, and doesn't allow for component-level repairs like resistors, diodes, or capacitors. There are consumables like batteries and screens that need not be returned.

The revisions to the law also prohibit working around device security, and remove the previous requirement that vendors provide necessary passwords for devices. This means that Apple will still be allowed to serialize components after a repair.

And, it doesn't apply at all to any medical equipment at any level. Home alarm systems, e-bikes, power tools, or farm equipment.

Consumer groups claim that the bill will save consumers about $330. It's not clear exactly how, given that big tech manufacturers don't have to change how they do business.