Today we moved the needle. A Right to Repair bill that would give everyone the information, parts, and tools they need to fix their electronic devices passed in the New York State Senate, the first such bill to pass in the country.
At a virtual session, the Senate approved S4104 by a margin of 51 to 12. Normally the next step would be a vote on an identical bill in the state’s Assembly. But Thursday is the last day of session for the NY legislature, and the bill has not yet escaped committee, making a vote by the full Assembly unlikely. The battle for fair repair in New York will continue into next year’s session, with a strong record of success.
But don’t get the wrong idea—this is big. This shows that Right to Repair has real support when the issue gets an actual vote, despite the efforts of tech manufacturers’ lobbyists.
“In passing this bill, the New York Senate proved they’re not afraid to stand up to powerful interests by fighting for the rights of all New Yorkers to fix, and truly own, their devices,” said Kerry Maeve Sheehan, U.S. policy lead for iFixit. “This is a major win for small repair businesses throughout the state, for the environment, for low income communities, and for everyone who just wants to be able to fix their stuff.”
Lobbyists fight hard to keep bills off the floor, especially in larger states like New York, because they see the dominos lined up behind even just one bill passing. After Massachusetts residents overwhelmingly approved an automotive right to repair bill in 2012 that gave independent shops access to diagnostic and repair data, car manufacturers sought a national agreement with shops and parts makers, rather than fight 49 other states’ initiatives. An updated initiative, hard fought by automakers, passed in 2020 in another landslide.
Sen. Philip Boyle, a Republican from Bay Shore on Long Island and the bill’s original sponsor, said at Thursday’s session that the Digital Fair Repair Act both protected consumers from monopolistic companies and curtailed e-waste. Customers can fix their own “smartphones, tablets, and farm equipment,” Boyle said. Or, if they have “no technical skills at all, like me,” they can turn to local repair shops and reuse programs to avoid simply tossing things out, Boyle said.
“We’re immensely proud of the progress made this year by the Digital Fair Repair Act sponsors in New York – Senator Neil Breslin, and Assemblymember Patricia Fahy – whose tireless advocacy moved the Right to Repair further than it’s ever gone in the state,” Sheehan said. “The bill’s progress proves that momentum is building, and that while Right to Repair might be deferrable, it is unstoppable.”
While time is likely to run out on the Assembly bill, New Yorkers can still tell their representatives to move next year’s bill to a vote, and to vote yes. A U.S. PIRG survey found that New Yorkers would save a collective $2.4 billion per year by fixing electronics instead of replacing them. The average family stands to save $330 per year, and help curtail the 655,000 tons of e-waste generated in New York each year.