Thursday, February 16, 2023

Proposed California Right to Repair: First Look

Please take a look at California Senate Bill 244 – which extends “right to repair” to include electronics and appliances.

While YOU might not own a screwdriver, many IT companies make their living repairing things that break. And if you do make money fixing computers, laptops, cell phones, and other electronics, this should be of interest.

But this bill is certainly not law yet - and has a massive uphill climb. First, it has to survive the opposition of some of the largest, richest companies in the world. As of 2021, the following companies are on record opposed to right to repair, and most have spent money actively lobbying against it:

  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Tesla
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • AT&T
  • Lilly, Inc.
  • T-Mobile
  • Medtronic
  • Caterpillar
  • John Deere
  • General Electric
  • Philips
  • eBay

Second the bill has to avoid being watered down to the point where it is useless. New York's "first ever" right to repair law is a BIG warning sign. It was amended at the last minute because the governor refused to sign unless the law was neutered. New York's law was signed at the end of December 2022 and goes into effect July 1st.

The Verge reports that it the New York bill was amended to remove almost all of it's teeth. For example, the bill as enacted does not require OEMs to provide information to bypass security features such as a "locked" phone. So, even if a phone would be 100% functional if unlocked, the OEM does not have to provide the information needed.

The New York law also excludes hardware sold under contract to government agencies or in business-to-business contracts that are not offered to all clients of a reseller. In other words, IT consultants and repair shops that have business contracts will not have the right to repair the equipment they sold, even if they have a valid OEM reseller agreement.

California is a big state - and the home of some of the largest opponents of right to repair. It would be easy for a mostly-useless and watered down version to emerge. One option would be to limit the cost of items subject to the legislation. Another would be to only address warranties that are voided if the device is opened during the warranty period.

Please read the legislation. It’s quite short. Again, it's here:

Before you head to Wikipedia . . . 

What is Right to Repair?

Right to Repair is much bigger than electronics. Notice, on the list above, that farm equipment manufacturers are on that list. Makers of electronic cars and new age toasters are on the list. The issue is much broader than cell phones.

The right to repair movement advocates for the legal ability for consumers to repair, modify, and maintain their own devices or have them repaired by a third party of their choice, rather than being forced to go through the manufacturer. Here are some arguments in favor of the right to repair:

1. It reduces electronic waste. When devices can be repaired, their continued usable lifetime expands. Therefore, they reduce the amount of electronic waste.

2. It saves money. You might be committed to a new $1,200 phone every year, but many people are not. They want a good, usable [phone, tablet, laptop, television, etc.] whose lifetime can be extended for a fraction of the cost of a new device. 

3. It encourages competition. Many small repair shops will compete more effectively with manufacturers and large OEMs. While this is the most visible group of businesses in the "SMB IT" community, it's not the only one. If you fix electronics as part of your job, this will give you more options and opportunities. 

4. It's a step back from "Planned Obsolescence." If you're alive today, you have grown up in a world of planned obsolescence. And nowhere is this more true than with electronics. Extending the life of you rfavorite electronics would save a great deal of money for a lot of people.

5. It narrows the "Digital Divide." If you live in a big city, you might have hundreds of options to get your electronics fixed (whether or not it voids the warranty). But if you live in a remote area, you have less access to these repair shops AND you are not allowed to repair your own devices. Whether it's a local shop or ordering the repair kit by mail, Right to Repair will make it easier for many people repair old devices.

It's All About Parts and Information!

Ultimately, the right to repair comes do to making parts and information available. But there are many possible levels of access to both of these. My suspicion is that weak laws will be the norm. Over time, stronger laws will emerge. 

As electronics shrink (as they always do) more and more components will be built into circuit boards and into integrated circuits themselves. This has been going on since "electronics" became a field. The line between what can be replaced and what cannot will change over time as technology evolves. This is not an all-or-nothing scenario. 

The important question is not about whether this or that component can be replaced. The bigger question is whether manufacturers can maintain absolute control over the repair of products they have sold and which they no longer own.

You may not want to fix your stuff. I do. But your clients should be able to make this choice for themselves. And all of the thousands of repair shops all across the world should be allowed to serve those customers without breaking laws and voiding warrantees.

This has been a hot topic for a few years, and it will be a hotter topic in the years ahead.

I know we'll be discussing this over at the National Society of IT Service Providers. I encourage you to join the conversation at

And, to be honest, you should join the group and the conversation no matter how you come down on this issue. Your voice deserves to be heard. It can be at


Some recent information on this topic to consider:

(2021) Who opposes right to repair?

Feedback welcome.

1 comment:

  1. If it's proposed by a politician in California, especially one from the Bay Area (and I see my useless SF representative there), it's usually a dumb idea.

    I'm not totally opposed to the idea: I have a perfectly good zero client monitor gathering dust in my basement. I bought it from a reseller. Neither Dell nor Teradici will give me the code to unlock it. So it's going to a landfill. THAT is sad. Guarantee you this bill won't do anything about that though.


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