California, the largest state in the USA and home to many of the world's largest tech companies, is a step closer to giving residents the right to repair their devices and appliances after Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law.
The SB-244 Right to Repair Act is set to come into effect on July 1, 2024, and it covers devices made after July 1, 2021. So don't toss that old phone just yet! It's long been championed by iFixit, the CALPIRG (the California Public Interest Research Group), and Californians Against Waste. It requires manufacturers to provide appropriate tools, parts and diagnostic software support for devices for up to seven years if the item costs more than $100. Devices that cost between $50 and $99.99 are required to have three years of support.
According to CALPIRG, parts examples include phone screens and more easily accessible batteries. Currently, it's easier to break into Fort Knox than it is to open many phone cases. Tool examples include specialty screwdrivers and pairing software that allows new parts to be installed.
The law is expected to provide a welcome boost for local repair stores. This competition is sure to lower costs as consumers will no longer be forced to visit expensive authorized repair centers.
Alongside the financial benefits, the bill will reduce electronic waste. If a device can be repaired, you won't need to throw it away, especially if the point of failure is something as simple as replacing a battery. It will also reduce demand for environmentally unfriendly and unsustainable manufacturing by reducing demand.
On a related note, Google has announced it will extend Chromebook support up to 10 years beginning in 2024. This will benefit organizations like schools, removing the need for them to replace otherwise functional units. That'll help to reduce e-waste too.
The news laws are not perfect though. Notably, game consoles are frustratingly exempt from the right to repair requirement. That's one more reason to game on your PC rather than a console, eh? The bill also excludes complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) technology, which includes things like electric wheelchairs.
Let's hope that bills like this are adopted in other states and countries. New York and Minnesota have also enacted similar legislation, but California getting on-board, with its large population and home to big-tech companies including Apple, makes it more likely such legislation can be emulated elsewhere.
On a personal note, I own a Dell XPS Ultrabook with a quad-core 8th Gen processor and 8GB of soldered RAM. It's a nice laptop all-in-all and it's served me well for years, but being stuck with just 8GB of RAM is becoming a frustrating limitation. I would love to be able to put 16GB or 32GB of RAM in it and extend its life for a few more years, but alas, I cannot. That means I need to buy a new laptop sometime soon. I imagine most of you've had similar experiences with planned obsolescence.
With luck, someday soon annoyances like that will be a thing of the past.