The owners of electronic devices in California stand to benefit immensely when a new law, requiring manufacturers to make spare parts available for longer periods, comes into effect in July 2024.
The SB-244 Right to Repair Act, co-sponsored by the California senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and the San Luis Obispo-based repair company iFixit, was passed with a 50–0 vote in the Assembly on Sep. 12, having sailed through with a 38–0 vote in the Senate on May 30. The bill now heads to another, relatively minor procedural vote in the Senate before being presented to governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.
The new law will give consumers the freedom to repair their devices at affordable rates, killing a decades-old stranglehold in which manufacturers dictated the prices of parts, repair fees, cost of software updates, and availability of spare parts and tools. “The era of manufacturers’ repair monopolies is ending, as well it should be,” Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, wrote in a blog post. “Accessible, affordable, widely available repair benefits everyone.”
Electronics manufacturers will now be required to make more fixable designs and provide equal access to parts, tools, software, diagnostics, and documentation at affordable rates. This will allow owners to take their malfunctioning devices to more repair shops, instead of having to go back to the original manufacturer.
While Minnesota and New York have enacted similar legislation in recent months, the California law goes a step further to ensure that manufacturers make repair materials available for extended periods after production. Parts and materials for products within the $50-$99.99 price bracket, for instance, will be kept available for three years; for products retailing above $100, the stipulation runs to seven years.
The law was backed by 82 independent repair shops, 109 local elected officials, and more than 50 environmental and consumer groups. “Right to Repair is quickly becoming the law of the land,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of Repair.org. “This is a huge step forward not just for Californians, but for all of us that just want to fix our stuff.” At least 28 more states are considering similar legislation this year.
The new California law affects some of the biggest companies headquartered in the state, including Apple, Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, and HP. It loosens their grip on a stream of repair revenue, while compelling them to let others make affordable repairs. Apple has said that it backs the new law, “because it includes requirements that protect individual users’ safety and security as well as product manufacturers’ intellectual property.” Brittany Masalosalo, the chief public policy officer of HP, also tweeted her company’s support for the law on Sep. 7.
California currently produces 772,000 tons of e-waste every year; the ability to repair broken devices means that more of them can be re-used, and fewer need to be entirely thrown out. This would also minimize the need for additional mining and production to replace devices. Creating more competition and consumer choice to the repair marketplace is projected to save California’s households roughly $5 billion per year.