Viewpoint: Fair Repair Act will aid consumers, environment

Senator Kevin Thomas

February 23, 2021

Originally published in Times Union on February 23, 2021.

New Yorkers routinely spend thousands of dollars buying smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices to help us work, play, communicate, and navigate the world in the age of COVID-19.

But these devices eventually break, which can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to fix or replace. Why? Because big tech companies refuse to release the information that would make it easier and cheaper to fix these devices. This is why we must pass The Digital Fair Repair Act, sponsored by state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, and Assembly Member Donna Lupardo, D-Binghamton, and save New York consumers $2.4 billion dollars a year by empowering them to fix broken electronics.

Currently, manufacturers require consumers to pay for repair services exclusively through their authorized repair providers, creating a monopoly on repair. This results in inflated repair prices, poor service, and unnecessarily high turnover rates for electronic products. The Digital Fair Repair Act would fix this problem by requiring companies to provide repair information and release proprietary parts to consumers and local repair businesses.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates that the average American family would save $330 a year if they repaired devices instead of replacing them. Consumers could really use these savings during the pandemic. Additionally, this legislation would reduce thousands of tons of electronic waste each year, and boost our local economies by creating repair industry jobs.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Not to Big Tech. It’s been spending big bucks to sweep it under the rug. Major manufacturers like Apple, Toyota, Facebook, and Verizon spent over $102,000 in just two months lobbying against right-to-repair legislation in 2018, 20 times what the the Right to Repair Coalition spent on lobbying. Big Tech lobbying has been a persistent hurdle for right-to-repair legislation across the country. Right now, Massachusetts is the only state with a form of the right-to-repair law.

We have an opportunity to change that this year with our Democratic supermajorities in the New York state Senate and Assembly. The time is now to help consumers and small businesses by supporting the Digital Fair Repair Act.

Kevin Thomas, D-Levittown, represents the 6th Senate District in Nassau County.