California just became the third state to pass an electronics right-to-repair act. Senate Bill 244 passed in a 50–0 vote in the California state Assembly on September 12th. The bill also passed the California Senate back in May with a 38–0 vote. The bill is now headed for a final concurrence vote in the Senate before heading to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.
California now follows in the footsteps of Minnesota and New York. Both states approved similar right-to-repair legislation in the past year. However, the California bill stands out in that it requires companies to expand access to repair materials like parts, tools, documentation, and software for a longer period of time. The bill outlines three years for products costing $50 to $99.99 and seven years for products priced at $100 or more. The bill will cover electronics and appliances made and sold after July 1st, 2021.
While California’s bill isn’t the first, it is significant in that this is happening in California. Not only is it where most Big Tech companies are based but California is also one of the most populated states in the US. Whatever legislative trends start in California tend to proliferate nationwide.
“Accessible, affordable, widely available repair benefits everyone,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO, in a statement. iFixit, which is known for its right-to-repair advocacy and gadget teardowns, also co-sponsored SB 244. “We’re especially thrilled to see this bill pass in the state where iFixit is headquartered, which also happens to be Big Tech’s backyard. Since Right to Repair can pass here, expect it to be on its way to a backyard near you.”
Another notable factor: Apple made waves last month when it announced it was throwing its support behind California’s right-to-repair act in a letter to Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D), who authored the bill. This was a major reversal after Apple spent years lobbying against the right to repair. That said, Apple has made a few major concessions as of late at the behest of regulators. The newly announced iPhone 15, for example, now comes with USB-C after European regulators forced Apple’s hand. Apple also highlighted that its new iPhone 15 Pro’s titanium chassis makes it more repairable at its Wonderlust event on September 12th, hours before SB 244 passed California’s state Assembly.
“While manufacturers have spent many years frustrating repair technicians and opposing Right to Repair legislation, thankfully, many, notably Apple, have come around,” Nathan Proctor, senior director of the Public Interest Research Group’s right-to-repair campaign, said in a statement. “That’s good news, because as important as this legislation is, we have more to do if we want a more sustainable relationship with the electronics that power our modern lives.”
That said, it’s not over until everything is set in ink. New York’s right-to-repair bill, for example, heavily disappointed activists after it was significantly weakened due to last-minute amendments that conceded convenient loopholes to manufacturers.
All three right-to-repair bills are expected to roll out in 2024 — New York’s in January, followed by Minnesota’s and California’s in July.
Correction, September 13th, 12:20PM ET: A previous version of this article erroneously referred to California as the most densely populated state instead of the most populous state. We regret the error.