Let New Yorkers Fix Their Things


Your smartphone has a dirty secret, and no, it’s not the time you spend playing Candy Crush. That’s the toll it takes on the climate to produce more than a billion devices like this every year.

Keeping our phones working longer, by fixing them instead of throwing them away, would reduce planet-warming carbon emissions and save consumers hundreds of dollars. The companies that make our smartphones, however, are doing everything they can to make repairing them nearly impossible, keep profits high, and force small independent repair shops out of business. A bill I’m sponsoring with Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, could go a long way to changing that.

Through mining, processing rare metals, and manufacturing energy-intensive semiconductors, your phone produced about 120 pounds of carbon emissions. According to a recent report by the US Public Interest Research Group, if Americans kept our phones for one more year, “emissions cuts would be equivalent to taking 636,000 cars off the road.”

Worse still, 85% of e-waste in the United States is never recycled.

So why don’t we keep using our phones longer? Because the companies that make our phones do everything they can to prevent us from servicing them. Apple and Samsung, the two biggest smartphone makers, refuse to sell replacement batteries directly to consumers. Imagine the outrage if Ford sold cars that only last as long as their original batteries or tires last. This intentional policy of planned obsolescence is contributing to the climate crisis and it is time for change.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission released a compelling bipartisan report confirming that tech companies intentionally make it difficult and expensive to repair our devices, pushing customers to buy new ones instead of fixing old ones. The FTC report confirms the evidence that “given the choice between a low-cost repair and the purchase of a new cell phone, many consumers will choose the low-cost repair”, and not just smartphones, but for computers, game consoles, laptops. , and more.

After the FTC report was released, Apple announced that it would begin releasing certain information and parts needed for repairs to independent repair shops. Despite this news, manufacturers are still making it unnecessarily difficult to repair devices and equipment, including:

Claiming repairs is impossible or too expensive: Without fair competition from independent repair shops, as auto dealers face in the auto repair market, manufacturers can wield monopoly-like power to limit the scope of repairs and increase costs. Apple’s repair service, for example, may not recover your data from a water-damaged iPhone, or it charges so much for a repair that it’s more economical to buy a whole new device.

Restrict access to repair information: When good repair documents are freely and easily available, consumers can fix their old smartphones or take them to a repair shop instead of buying new ones. Manufacturers have this information, but refuse to share it with their customers and independent repair shops. Right to repair advocates predict a startling 400% growth in repair employment currently stifled by repair-monopolized products. Schools can start teaching today’s do-it-yourselfers to become tomorrow’s innovators.

Restrict access to spare parts: Manufacturers also hinder repair by refusing to offer genuine spare parts to customers or repair shops, as well as preventing their suppliers from selling to anyone else. Without access to genuine spare parts, repairers must rely on third-party components or salvaged parts.

Restrict access to necessary software tools: Some manufacturers require the use of specialized software tools to diagnose problems or program new parts to work with a device. But these are not shared with independent repair shops. This can mean that even a well-repaired phone with genuine parts won’t work as expected. Simply replacing your iPhone screen, for example with a new screen from an identical iPhone, may not work properly unless the phone is verified by Apple’s special software tool.

As with most devices, however, these repairable barriers are repairable. In New York, my Fair Repair Act requires manufacturers to provide the same repair information, spare parts, and hardware they already have to smartphone owners and independent repair shops. It would keep our smartphones working longer, reduce the impact of e-waste on the climate, fuel skilled labor and small business growth, and save New York families an average of $400 a year than they would otherwise spend on new devices and exorbitant repair prices for the industry.

New York can lead the way on Right to Repair this year, and if it does, our wallets, our small businesses, and our environment will undoubtedly benefit.

Representative Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, represents the 109th Assembly District.


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