California Pushes ‘Right to Repair’ Bill Into Law

Following in the footsteps of New York and Minnesota, California passed a new law this week that protects consumers by allowing them to repair their own devices.

The bill, called the California Right to Repair law, passed through the state Legislature almost unanimously, and it was signed by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsome this week.

According to the law, any appliance and electronic that costs at least $50 and is sold in California after July 1 of 2021 will be covered by the law when it goes into effect on July 1 of 2024.

Manufacturers of any device that costs from $50 through $99 must have stock replacement tools and parts and also maintain documentation for up to three years after purchase. For devices that cost $100 or more, the term increases to seven years.

Once the bill was signed into law this week, the state director of non-profit organization California Public Interest Research Group, Jenn Engstrom, commented:

“This is a victory for consumers and the planet, and it just makes sense. Right now, we mine the planet’s precious minerals, use them to make amazing phones and other electronics, ship these products across the world, and then toss them away after just a few years’ use. …

“We should make stuff that lasts and be able to fix our stuff when it breaks, and now thanks to years of advocacy, Californians will finally be able to, with the Right to Repair.”

There are some exceptions to this new law. Game consoles, alarm systems and heavy industrial equipment that “vitally affects the general economy of the state, the public interest and the public welfare” are all not covered.

The bill was supported on a bipartisan basis in the California Legislature. One of its co-sponsors, state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, commented this week:

“I’m thrilled that the governor has signed the Right to Repair Act into law. As I’ve said all along, I’m so grateful to the advocates fueling this movement with us for the past six years, and the manufacturers that have come along to support Californians’ Right to Repair.

“This is a common sense bill that will help small repair shops, give choice to consumers, and protect the environment.”

It wasn’t just public advocacy groups and state lawmakers who pushed the bill who expressed overwhelming support for it. Major manufacturers such as Apple got behind it as well.

That’s somewhat surprising, considering Apple is known for having a “walled garden” ecosystem for its products that prevents people from repairing devices on their own.

When Nebraska first proposed a similar bill, Apple staunchly opposed it, saying that the state would ultimately become “a mecca for hackers” if the bill were passed.

The company took a different stance when the bill was up for debate in California, though. Apple even wrote a letter supporting the bill that read, in part:

“We support ‘SB 244’ because it includes requirements that protect individual users’ safety and security as well as product manufacturers’ intellectual property.”