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Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (Photo:Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Right To Repair Bill Passes Assembly 65-1

‘People should be able to fix their stuff’

By Evan Symon, September 13, 2023 11:30 am

A bill to require companies to provide consumers with the necessary materials to repair products that were purchased from a manufacturer passed the Assembly in a 65-1 vote on Tuesday, sending a “right to repair” bill to the Governor’s desk for the first time since similar bills were first attempted in the state in 2018.

Senate Bill 244, authored by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would require, except in certain situations with express warranties, manufacturers to make available the means to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of products they make. Under SB 244, the Right to Repair Act, it would also be required for the companies to make available to owners of the product, service and repair facilities, and service dealers any documentation, tools, software, and parts needed to disable and reset any electronic security lock or other security-related function.

While the bill does allow for the right to repair, any trade secrets would be protected under the bill, and for any tech company, any source code for the product would not need to be distributed. Fines for violating SB 244 would also be high, with first violations coming to $1,000 a day for companies, second violations racking up $2,000 a day, and $5,000 a day for violations after that.

Since 2018, Senator Eggman has attempted to pass different variations of her Right To Repair Act. However, opposition from companies who don’t want to lose control of their products fought back hard each year. Even as recently as last year, right to repair bills were routinely killed in Legislative Committees.

While most states have seen similar right to repair bill outcomes in the 2010s and 2020s, the number of passed bills at the state level has slowly gone up. The first successful right to repair act law was passed in Massachusetts in 2012 over the automotive right to repair. Electronic right to repair was first passed in a state in 2014. Consumer electronics didn’t have a successful bill until last year in New York, and farming equipment didn’t have a successful state-level bill until earlier this year. While only New York and Minnesota have passed similar tech-based right to repair laws so far, Eggman tried once again this year to make California the third such state with legislation.

While last year it did not even get past one committee, SB 244 gained support from both parties in the Senate this session, passing 38-0 in a Senate vote in May. Seeing the writing on the wall, companies that previously fought ferociously against right to repair bills in California suddenly reversed course. Last month, Apple even announced support of the bill, although many commentators noted that the company likely found a way to still protect their technology and make money on the legislation if it passes.

This led to the Assembly vote on Tuesday. In a 65-1 vote, with 14 abstentions, SB 244 was passed. The bill now has only one more hurdle left, barring a lawsuit, with the Governor’s decision needed by early October.

Right to repair bill sent to Governor after passage

In a statement, Nathan Proctor, the Senior Director of the Public Interest Research Group ‘s Right to Repair Campaign, said, “Even in the home state of Big Tech, repair is a winning idea. It just makes sense — people should be able to fix their stuff. It’s better for the planet and it saves money. Californians are going to be fixing a lot more, too, because their state Assembly just passed the strongest consumer Right to Repair bill yet. The bar keeps going up.”

“We are surrounded by effectively disposable gadgets. But that should change soon. While manufacturers have spent many years frustrating repair technicians and opposing Right to Repair legislation, thankfully, many, notably Apple, have come around. 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. This California bill, a result of an incredible campaign by our allies and our legislative champion, state Sen. Susan Eggman, gives me hope that we can create a more fixable world.”

Political insiders in Sacramento said that, while Newsom hasn’t hinted if he would sign the bill in the coming weeks, the sheer amount of support for the bill, as well as many tech companies now giving their blessing on it, would likely result in the bill becoming law and coming into force next year.

“Right to repair bills have been taboo for years,” said Dana, a Capitol staffer. “Not just in California either. But the whole movement has been slowly building momentum, and 2023 turned out to be the year for them. Eggman finally crafted a bill people liked, and many here didn’t want to be behind the curve. There was a lot of scrambling over this one. But then the Senate came together and Apple gave in. There was just too much momentum.”

“Tech companies are still worried about this. They want to protect their products, and yeah, they want to make money by being the exclusive people to repair and replace, but they also have that attitude after their tech was reconfigured for years by third parties for so long too.

“The Governor will likely sign in it. And with New York and Minnesota also having new laws just like it, we’re probably going to see a lot of other states pass laws like this in the years to come.”

Newsom has until October 14th to sign SB 244 into law.

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One thought on “Right To Repair Bill Passes Assembly 65-1

  1. Heath Flora (from Manteca) is the sole “nay” vote. I would be curious to know why he would vote against it. This is one of those rare bills that doesn’t trigger a red vs. blue split.

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