Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

On March 4th, the Oregon Right to Repair Act passed by a wide margin with little opposition. The bill builds on Minnesota and California right-to-repair legislation by restricting the practice of “parts pairing.” Oregon’s governor, Tina Kotek, now has until March 9th to sign the bill into law.

In some ways, the Oregon Right to Repair Act (SB 1596) is just a repeat of what we’ve seen in other U.S. states. If it goes into law, this bill will force manufacturers to provide replacement parts, documentation, and software for all smartphones made after July 2021. Minnesota and California set the same requirements in their respective right-to-repair laws.

But Oregon’s bill takes things a step further. Manufacturers must make repair materials available for non-smartphone devices made after 2015—it’s the most aggressive and retroactive right-to-repair provision to date. Laptops, tablets, fridges, and other items that contain computer chips are subject to this rule, though there are a handful of exemptions, including game consoles, medical devices, and heavy machinery.

And, shockingly, the state of Oregon is willing to attack Apple’s parts pairing scheme. Some of the components inside an iPhone, such as the battery, selfie camera, and display, are “paired” to the phone’s serial number. If you replace one of these components without consulting Apple, the iPhone will know that you performed an unauthorized repair, and it will punish you by disabling certain features or by pumping warnings into your notifications.

If Oregon’s right-to-repair bill goes into law, it will hamper Apple’s ability to enforce a parts pairing system. Manufacturers won’t be allowed to “reduce the functionality or performance” of a device if a repair is performed using “otherwise functional” parts. This greatly increases customers’ ability to perform cheap and environmentally friendly iPhone repairs. Instead of going to an authorized repair center or buying brand-new parts through Apple’s overpriced self-repair program, iPhone users can source cheap parts from broken “donor” phones. Unauthorized repair businesses, which are not bound by Apple’s pricing or policies, may enjoy the same freedom.

However, this bill’s parts pairing requirement will only affect devices manufactured after January 1st, 2025. Parts pairing may remain a constant problem for older devices.

Apple threw its weight behind California’s right-to-repair law last year. The company also claims that it will support national right-to-repair legislation in the future. But Apple opposed the Oregon Right to Repair Act, stating that “the bill’s current language around parts pairing will undermine the security, safety, and privacy of Oregonians.” On the other side of the aisle, Google penned an open letter encouraging lawmakers to pass the Oregon bill.

On paper, the Oregon Right to Repair Act has no impact on other U.S. states. But it’s difficult for manufacturers to comply with laws on a state-by-state basis. So, in practice, state-specific right-to-repair legislation affects the nation as a whole. It’s like the California Prop 65 cancerous materials label that you see on some items—manufacturers are only forced to abide by Prop 65 in the state of California, yet we see cancerous warning labels on items throughout the United States.

Governor Tina Kotek says that she is “super proud” of the Oregon Right to Repair Act. The governor is expected to sign this bill into law before the March 9th deadline. If it enters law, the Oregon Right to Repair Act will go into practice on January 1st of next year. Unfortunately, civil enforcement can’t begin until July 1st of 2027, meaning that manufacturers have a few years to twiddle their thumbs or search for loopholes.

Source: Oregon State Legislature via iFixit

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By John P.

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