Customers look at iPhone models at the Apple Store in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 20, 2019. (Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
A cracked cell phone screen or dead iPhone battery could be easier to fix starting next year in California after the approval of a new consumer rights law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Senate Bill (SB) 244
, the “Right to Repair Act,” aims to cut down on electronic waste and make it easier for anyone to get electronics fixed at independent repair shops by expanding access to materials and information needed to fix electronics and appliances.
Newsom signed the bill, authored by Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), on Oct. 10, making California the fourth state since last year, following New York, Colorado, and Minnesota, to enact such a measure.
Currently, only electronic manufacturers or their authorized technicians can fix broken gadgets, sometimes leading to higher costs and lengthy repair time. Instead of paying extra or waiting for a repair, many consumers buy new devices, leading to more waste, according to Ms. Eggman.
The governor’s approval ended a six-year effort to bring the law to California, Ms. Eggman said in a social media statement Oct. 11. The new law goes into effect in July 2024.
“Consumer products and appliances just don’t seem to be made to the same quality as they used to and while we can’t necessarily mandate that, we are going to make sure that there is access to the stuff you need to fix your products if something goes wrong,” the senator posted
on X, formerly Twitter.
At least four key components to repair electronics are often not available to consumers, she added.
According to Ms. Eggman, these include authentic parts provided by the manufacturer, and regarding repairs—the appropriate tools needed, a written manual explaining how to make such, and the software needed to reset or recalibrate the product afterward.
“Missing even one of these components can make repair more challenging, less safe, and less reliable,” she said in the statement.
According to the new law, manufacturers of electronics or appliances that cost wholesalers $50 to $99 are to make available to owners, repair shops, and service dealers documents, parts, and tools, including any updates, for “fair and reasonable terms” for at least three years after the last date a product model or type was manufactured, regardless of any warranties.
Electronics or appliance manufacturers of products with a wholesale price of $100 or more are required to make these items available for at least seven years, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
The new law also includes a provision that allows a city, county, or the state to sue manufacturers who knowingly violate it. The governmental agencies can seek civil fines from $1,000 per day for the first violation, to $2,000 per day for the second, and $5,000 per day for violating the law a third time or more.
iPhone 13s are displayed at an Apple store in Corte Madera, Calif., on Jan. 27, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
An amendment to the bill, added by the Assembly, places a three-year statute of limitation on legal action against any violations.
Apple, the maker of the iPhone and a longtime opponent of the legislation nationally, formally supported California’s legislation, telling Ms. Eggman in a letter
it will protect individual users’ safety and security.
“We support SB 244 because it includes requirements that protect individual users’ safety and security, as well as product manufacturers’ intellectual property,” the company wrote in the letter, according to Reuters
SB 244 includes a provision that precludes a manufacturer from divulging trade secrets or intellectual property.
The measure passed the Assembly 65–1 Sept. 12, with 14 members abstaining, and the Senate unanimously on May 30 with a 38–0 vote, with two senators not voting.
Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce pollution and waste, the California Public Interest Research Group, and iFixit, a global online repair community, sponsored the legislation.
“The tech revolution started here in California, so it’s appropriate that we’re working to fix the problems of Big Tech here,” iFixit said in an X post
A battery is exposed as a man tries to repair an iPhone in a repair store in New York, Feb. 17, 2016. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo)
Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, said replacing electronics impacts people in many ways.
“Replacing expensive electronics and appliances at an ever-quickening pace is not only a financial burden on consumers but also drives unsustainable mining and extraction that has a tremendous environmental impact up and down the supply chain,” Mr. Lapis said in a statement
the same day the bill was signed into law. “My hope is that, with the passage of SB 244, California will foster a thriving market for repair businesses and secondhand sales that will make repair the norm, not the exception.”
A coalition of associations representing businesses and manufacturers opposed the legislation, including the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Civil Justice Association of California, the Internet Coalition, and others.
The opposing coalition asserted the bill put customers and their data at risk. The groups also said it undermined the business of companies that are part of an authorized network of original equipment manufacturers that take measures to avoid counterfeit components.
The opponents also said the bill would stifle innovation by putting “hard-earned intellectual property in the hands of hundreds, if not thousands, of new entities,” according to a statement provided to the Legislature. “It also does not address advancements in sustainability by electronic product manufacturers.”