Oregon just passed a landmark "right to repair" law

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek officially signed a new "right to repair" law on Wednesday that will make it easier to repair our stuff — at least in Oregon.

Much of the law follows in the footsteps of right-to-repair legislation passed in New York, Minnesota and California: Tech companies selling products in Oregon will be required to allow customers and third-party repair shops to purchase parts, tools, and the like for most electronic devices picture. The law also applies retroactively to these devices: It applies to smartphones released on July 1, 2021, and newer, as well as most other electronic devices sold on or after July 1, 2015. This means that if you live in Oregon, Apple will need to make it possible for you to purchase parts for the MacBook you bought nine years ago.

While these effects are a welcome change in themselves, Oregon's law differs from the other three states in that it prohibits "parts matching," a term that describes when companies block unauthorized parts from being sold in running in its equipment. Part pairing can also disrupt the functionality of a device when these unauthorized parts are installed. We saw this with Apple's iPhone 13: iOS would turn off Face ID if you replaced the display with an unauthorized one. (Apple later changed its approach.)

But instead of relying on public backlash to force companies to do the right thing, Oregon's new law will ensure that no company selling electronics in the state can take away functionality because users install parts they don't approve of. However, unlike the other side of the law, the parts matching legislation is not retroactive: it only applies to devices manufactured after January 1, 2025. So while your existing electronics, like cell phones and laptops, can continue to use the parts-matching policy, any products you purchase will be prohibited from doing so in Oregon by 2025.

What does this mean for repairability?

If you live in Oregon, your ability to repair your own products is improving significantly, especially the equipment you buy next year. But the great thing about this law is that it doesn't just apply to the devices we think of when we talk about repairability: it also applies to most electronic devices you own. If your smartwatch breaks, or you can't seem to vacuum anymore, these manufacturers need to give you the option to buy a tool that can repair your device, rather than forcing you to buy a new one.

The main exceptions here are medical equipment, agricultural equipment, internal combustion engine equipment (unfortunately, your gas-powered car is not included), or video game consoles. So while Microsoft probably doesn't need to worry about helping you repair your Xbox, it does need to provide parts and documentation for your Surface.

The right to repair actually involves two things: The first is allowing consumers to continue using the device they paid for. Companies have conditioned us to abandon cheap products as soon as they crash. If the law lets them provide a way to repair these products, not only will we be able to repair our devices more easily, but we should see companies start making more durable products as well — at least, that's the hope.

However, the second part of the movement seeks to put power into the hands of consumers when it comes to repairing these devices. Sure, it's great to fix your tech, but if it's costing you a fortune because you're forced to do it the way the manufacturer wants it to, it's no better than buying something new. Allowing customers and third-party repair shops access to parts and documentation levels the playing field and makes repairs more affordable for everyone.

As states pass these laws, we see improvements for everyone: Apple has a self-repair program that allows anyone to buy genuine Apple parts and follow instructions to repair their own product, as does Samsung. But they're far from perfect: Apple's programs are particularly expensive . Hopefully, the more right-to-repair laws that are passed, the easier these self-repairs will be.