Our neighbors in New York state are on the verge of a major win for consumers and our environment.
Earlier this year, the New York Assembly and Senate passed – by wide margins – the Digital Beauty Repair Act, which requires manufacturers to have access to the parts, tools and information needed to fix them. our own consumer electronics. If Governor Kathy Hochul signs the bill, New York will become the first state to do so. But he may not sign the law.
Instead of making things last, many manufacturers design their products to be broken and replaced by consumers. To add insult to injury, many manufacturers of cell phones and watches, medical devices, appliances and even tractors have also created legal, digital and physical barriers to prevent consumers from using them. own repairs, to use specialized repair shops.
The result is a lot of waste. Electronic waste is now the fastest growing waste stream in the world. It’s not just overseas. Americans buy about 160 million new smartphones each year – a process that requires 23.7 million tons of raw materials to satisfy. Continuing to extract minerals to produce and consume electricity at this rate is unsustainable.
According to a 2021 report from Consumer Reports, 1 in 5 smartphone users will have to replace their phone sooner than they wanted because they couldn’t find someone to fix it.
Appliance repair shouldn’t be difficult, but manufacturers often prevent repairs by not providing parts or service information to consumers or specialty repair shops. If the manufacturer only has what you want, he can charge what he wants, or push you to “upgrade” to his new product instead of fixing what you have. .
New York’s Affordable Care Act changes that. Requiring all manufacturers selling “digital electronic products” within state borders to make tools, parts and repair instructions available to consumers and specialty stores.
The bill will not solve all our problems. For example, the problem of planned obsolescence is not necessarily a challenge. And because the final bill is weaker than the original because of amendments pushed by manufacturers, it includes exceptions for home appliances, medical equipment and agricultural equipment. Despite those shortcomings, signing the bill into law would be a step forward for consumers and the environment.
New York is not the only state considering Right to Amendment laws. In 2020, Massachusetts voters supported Question 1, which requires automakers to introduce an open-data standard platform that allows vehicle owners and private mechanics to access data on the car needed to be repaired. And earlier this year, Colorado passed a bill establishing regulatory rights for electric wheelchairs.
If Governor Hochul signs the New York bill, manufacturers who sell goods there will be required to submit the revised documents there, and those documents may quickly go worldwide. The legislation could lead to widespread changes in the design and maintenance of electronics not only in New York but around the world.
Although guaranteeing the Right to Repair seems simple, many manufacturers want to continue to push consumers to pay for upgrades, which is why they acted on Governor Hochul’s request to turn off the the Digital Arts Amendment Act.
However, Right to Reform advocates disagree. iFixit — a leader in the Right to Fix movement and a popular do-it-yourself website with thousands of repair guides — is now running a billboard in Albany, New York, calling for signatures by Governor Hochul the bill. In addition, Repair.org, US PIRG, NYPIRG, Consumer Reports, Environment New York, the Story of Stuff Project, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, NRDC, Environmental Action and Electronic Frontier Foundation, have increased their calls for the governor to signing the bill. And the Albany Times-Union edited it twice in support of the bill. Governor Hochul has until January 10, 2023 to sign it.
If you have friends in New York, you can help by sharing this list with them and encouraging them to contact your governor to urge him to sign the Digital Beauty Amendment Act into law. Making this big change in New York could mean big changes here in Massachusetts.
Johanna Neumann of Amherst has spent the past two years working to protect our air, water and open spaces, protect consumers in the marketplace and advance a sustainable economy and democratic society.