What just happened? States across the U.S. have enacted increasingly ambitious Right to Repair (R2R) laws since late last year. California has been a trendsetter on the R2R front in the past, although it failed to get a law across the finish line. The state’s latest law finally passed, showing that R2R advocates have gained traction as manufacturers loosen their control over parts and repair manuals.
California is the third US state to pass a right to repair consumer electronics law. After a unanimous vote, Sacramento lawmakers expect Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill.
Senate Bill 244 (SB-244) contains more consumer protections than similar laws passed in New York and Minnesota. It requires manufacturers to provide replacement parts and repair manuals to consumers and independent repair shops for electronic items costing between $50 and $100 for three years after the original date of manufacture. For devices costing over $100, this period is seven years. Although the law takes effect on July 1, 2024, it applies retroactively to products manufactured after July 1, 2021.
The law applies primarily to devices such as phones, tablets, laptops and other general-purpose devices, but not to alarm systems or video game consoles. Although producers in California received fewer concessions than in Minnesota or New York, some significant concessions still exist.
First, the bill does not require companies to provide instructions on how to circumvent security measures, which can often be a significant obstacle to independent repairs. John Deere is known for using software locks to force users to spend extra money on first-party maintenance and replacements.
Another limitation of the California bill is that independent repair providers must disclose if they use refurbished replacement parts or purchase components from third-party manufacturers. This condition could impact how companies handle issues such as official repairs or warranties.
These conditions likely led Apple to support SB-244 — a surprising result given the company’s historically strong opposition to previous right-to-repair proposals. However, the Cupertino powerhouse has recently softened its opposition to R2R by launching independent repair initiatives. A self-repair program has been established in the United States to provide parts, tools, and instructions for repairing many of the company’s products. Last December, this program was expanded to Europe.
Microsoft is another tech giant that has recently embraced the right-to-repair and sells replacement parts for Surface devices directly to consumers. Last year, Samsung and Google began working with iFixit to enable self-repairs for their Galaxy and Pixel products, respectively.