- California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Right to Repair Act on Wednesday, which requires certain consumer electronics manufacturers to make repair tools and parts widely available to device owners and third-party repair businesses. Some electronics recyclers and refurbishers see the law as a way to divert the material from disposal and bring in new business.
- The law, which takes effect in July 2024, covers devices like televisions, radios and home appliances. It also imposes fines on manufacturers that don’t comply. These measures make it one of the strongest right-to-repair laws in the country, said iFixit, a bill supporter.
- Newsom vetoed a separate right-to-repair bill for powered wheelchairs this week, citing complexities with the state health care system. That bill would have prohibited the state Department of Health Care Services from requiring prior authorization for certain kinds of powered wheelchairs.
The legislation’s passage in California has fired up advocates who hope to see more states adopt similar laws. In 2023, 30 states introduced right-to-repair legislation, with bills focusing on farm equipment, consumer devices and other products.
Advocates have been working on this issue in California for at least six years, said state Sen. Susan Eggman, who sponsored the bill. “This is a common sense bill that will help small repair shops, give choice to consumers, and protect the environment,” she said in a statement.
Though advocates see the bill’s passage as a milestone in the overall right-to-repair movement, groups like iFixit said they were “disheartened” that Gov. Newsom vetoed the bill for powered wheelchairs. In his veto letter, Newsom said numerous requirements of the state’s Medi-Cal program would prevent the bill from working as intended but said he would direct the Department of Health Care Services to look into the issue.
California’s success in passing right-to-repair for consumer electronics is still notable, iFixit said in a statement. It “goes above and beyond” consumer electronics bills passed in New York and Minnesota because it mandates certain repair manuals be made available for up to seven years, which helps keep devices out of waste streams for longer.
The bill received support not just from longtime repair advocates but from Apple, which historically opposed such legislation but now says the bill balances customer repair options with data security and intellectual property considerations. HP also announced its support over the summer. Homeboy Electronics Recycling, Zero Waste USA and multiple local jurisdictions also supported the bill.
Yet a coalition of opposing groups, such as the California Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Technology Association, Internet Coalition and TechNet, were vocal opponents. They did not see enough protections for original equipment manufacturers and felt the bill unfairly undermined repair businesses that work in OEM-authorized networks.
Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of sustainability at iFixit, said California is a good place to pass right-to-repair since it’s the original hub for major tech companies in the U.S. She and other advocates hope the new law will kickstart a wider secondhand sales and repair market in the state.
“The tech revolution started here in California, so it’s appropriate that we’re working to fix the problems of Big Tech here, too,” she said in a statement. “With access to original parts, tools, and documentation, independent repair shops will be able to compete again.”
Advocates also touted the right-to-repair movement as a way to reduce reliance on mining for rare minerals commonly used in electronics, which “has a tremendous environmental impact up and down the supply chain,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, in a statement.
Because of the significant environmental impact of mining, plus manufacturing and shipping electronics to consumers around the world, more should be done to ensure the items aren’t thrown away after just a few years of use, added Jenn Engstrom, state director for CALPIRG. “What a waste.”