New Jersey will push to make fixing your gadgets easier.
Image: Karen Blakeman
New Jersey assemblyman Paul Moriarty knows that his office is about to get a lot of calls from the tech industry's biggest lobbyists.
"I assume it goes something like this—people introduce legislation, the industry hires lobbyists that descend upon the statehouse, they kill the bill," Moriarty told me. "If we're the 12th state, they have a well-oiled machine on how to tackle this, but I'm used to that."
Moriarty announced Friday that he's introducing the "Fair Repair Act," a bill that would require electronics manufacturers to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public and independent repair companies. It would also require them to make repair guides publicly available. Moriarty is more or less right about the general cadence to these legislative battles: Tech lobbying killed right to repair legislation in Nebraska and Minnesota, and records show that Apple, IBM, Verizon, and industry trade groups have heavily stepped up their lobbying spending in New York.
But Moriarty has some advantages that lawmakers in other states don't have. For one, he's chairman of the assembly's Consumer Affairs Committee, meaning that he has more power to shepherd legislation through the important committee process. He was also heavily involved in an automotive right to repair push in 2012 that was heavily opposed by car manufacturers and dealers and ultimately resulted in a huge win for consumers.
"When there's a monopoly on who can fix a device or make repairs, the cost of those repairs is very high"
In that case, Massachusetts passed an automotive right-to-repair law. New Jersey was following close behind and was poised to pass similar legislation. Fearing a patchwork of different laws in different states, Moriarty and legislators in other states pushed manufacturers to sign an agreement to honor the Massachusetts law nationwide.
In effect, the pressure from New Jersey and several other states turned the Massachusetts law into de-facto nationwide legislation. Although the "memorandum of understanding" is a voluntary agreement and does not have the weight of law behind it, right-to-repair advocates have told me that this would be an ideal outcome for electronics right to repair legislation as well.
"I remember meeting with the manufacturers and saying 'We'll pass this—we will have the votes,'" he said. "Rather than having different laws in different states, they thought they might as well cave and get the best agreement they can and we didn't have to pass the law. I think this will happen with electronics as well at some point."
Moriarty says his own family has gotten sick of having to take Apple products to the Apple store for repairs and says his office has regularly heard from constituents who feel the same way. He says right to repair legislation will help local repair companies hoping to start repair businesses.
"When there's a monopoly on who can fix a device or make repairs, the cost of those repairs is very high," he said. "Anyone who takes an iPhone to an Apple store can attest to that."