The level of activity follows expert predictions that 2024 would see an influx of right-to-repair consumer electronics bills. | skimin0k/Shutterstock

There are over 25 bills establishing the right to repair consumer items in play across the U.S., and more than a dozen of those cover consumer electronics. 

This burst of activity lines up with what experts predicted last year. 

Liz Chamberlain, director of sustainability at iFixit, told Resource Recycling that after the first few bills passed, advocates learned lessons and fine-tuned their approach. 

“We’ve had to learn to pare things down a little bit, to slice off pieces of the pie,” she said.

For example, the first right-to-repair bill to pass since 2012 was the right to repair wheelchairs in Colorado, and the specificity helped, she said. 

“We learned a lot about what we have to exempt and where it’s worth holding the line,” Chamberlain added. “But I think as things start to pass, that changes. We’re able to hold more lines and to slice off less, grant fewer exemptions.” 

The bill moving the fastest toward a governor’s desk right now appears to be SB 1596 in Oregon, she said. It was passed out of the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 25-5 in early February and is now in the House. 

Chamberlain said the overwhelming vote came even after Apple sent a representative to testify against a portion of the bill that bans parts pairing, which is when a company includes software in devices that ensure it will only operate with parts approved by the manufacturer. 

Apple supported a national right-to-repair act last year, but in Oregon the company came out against a bill that banned parts pairing.”

Chamberlain and other supporters are hoping for a similar vote in the House, but this will be the first time the Oregon House has heard a right-to-repair bill, so there may be educational hurdles to overcome. 

Other bills in play

Several bills, including those in Arizona (SB 1536), Illinois (SB 2680) and Hawaii (SB 27), are very similar to California’s successful bill, which was signed into law in 2023. 

New York is also looking to amend a previously passed bill to close loopholes with AB 8955, and Chamberlain said she’s hopeful about its odds of passage due to strong sponsorship there and the amount of attention the loopholes garnered when the bill first passed. In addition, the bills in California and Minnesota have laid out the groundwork for closing the loopholes. 

“Now that other states have moved beyond and closed them, hopefully the New York legislature won’t want to be left behind by California and Minnesota,” she added. 

Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, previously told Resource Recycling she believes the bill has a high likelihood of passing, for similar reasons. 

“Buyers in California and Minnesota already have significant advantages over New York buyers,” she said. “A8955 finishes the job as originally approved by the legislature just 18 months ago.”

Minnesota also has a bill in play, SB 4407, to reduce the categories exempted from its bill. 

Colorado is looking to expand its current right-to-repair law for wheelchairs and farm equipment to include consumer devices and business computing. This bill, HB 1121, also includes a ban on parts pairing.

Other bills in play are in Indiana (SB 53, which covers consumer electronics and agricultural equipment), Missouri (HB 1618, exempts cars, along with HB 2041, with no exemptions), Maine (LD 1487), Michigan (SB 686, exempts cars), New Jersey (S 1723, exempts cars) and Oklahoma (HB 3823).

Some legislatures also allow bills to be carried over from session to session. There are several such bills on the right to repair consumer electronics that have been carried into 2024, in Alaska (SB 112, which only exempts cars), Massachusetts (S 2487, covering handheld devices), Ohio (SB 73, exempts cars, farm and forestry equipment and medical equipment) and Pennsylvania (SB 744, exempts cars, medical devices, and outdoor power, farming, yard and construction equipment). 

Rhode Island’s H 7095 covers everything with a microchip and also bans parts pairing, but was held for further study after a late January hearing. 

Washington state alternates between 60-day legislative sessions and 105-day sessions, and this year is a short session. Therefore, the crossover deadline, which is the date by which a bill must move out of its house of origin, was Feb. 13 this year. 

That means that HB 1933, which would have covered computers, cell phones, appliances, agricultural equipment and powered wheelchairs, among other things, is dead for the 2024 session.  

Finally, iFixit has been working on some federal bills: the Fair Repair Act, a more standard right-to-repair bill, similar to New York, California and Minnesota; and the Freedom to Repair Act, which would amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow for software repairs. 

Chamberlain said she expects both bills to be reintroduced, through the timing is unclear. It’s an election year, which can make moving bills at a federal level difficult, she noted. 

iFixit also submitted a petition last year to the Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to create right-to-repair rules. 

Future momentum 

The idea of the right to repair is nearing a tipping point, Chamberlain said, not only in the U.S. but around the world. The European Union parliament just approved a right-to-repair draft bill that would require manufacturers to provide seven years of parts, tools and documentation for repair and language on parts pairing, and Quebec, Canada passed a ban on planned obsolescence. 

In the past several years, India opened a right to repair portal, Australia’s Productivity Commission took comments on the right to repair and the European Union mandated that smartphones must have user-replaceable batteries by 2027. 

However, many repair barriers start with the design of products, Chamberlain said, so there is work to do yet – but she’s hopeful that the global community is up to the task. 

“When I talk to people about the work that I’m doing, I hear so much righteous anger about it,” she said. “People are annoyed by this disposable culture.” 

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