Oregon Just Struck a Blow to Parts Pairing and Won a Decade of Repair Support
Right to Repair

Oregon Just Struck a Blow to Parts Pairing and Won a Decade of Repair Support

Today, the US fight for our Right to Repair won an enormous victory: Oregon’s governor just signed an electronics Right to Repair law that not only protects owners’ right to get our stuff fixed anywhere we want but also limits the anti-repair practices of parts pairing. And it goes further back than any bill ever has before—for everything except smartphones, manufacturers must make parts, tools, documentation, and software available for products produced as far back as 2015. (For smartphones, the bill applies retroactively to July 1, 2021, the same date as the Minnesota and California bills that go into effect this July.)

The state House passed Oregon’s Right to Repair Act (SB 1596) on March 4 by a 42–13 margin. The bill passed the state Senate on Feb. 20, with a vote of 25–5. Today (Weds. March 27), it has been signed into law by Gov. Tina Kotek.

Everything you see here gets parts, tools, and documentation under the Oregon law. Image via Luke Wroblewski on Flickr.

Almost Everything with a Chip—Minus the Usual Exemptions—Is Covered

Final vote count on the Oregon House floor.

This bill applies to nearly everything with a chip, with a set of exemptions that will look familiar to anyone who’s been following the Right to Repair movement. So yes, it covers laptops and tablets and smartwatches and refrigerators and smart toasters and vacuum cleaners. But no medical devices, no farm equipment, nothing that runs on an internal combustion engine, no video game consoles. The exemption list is a map of the strongest anti-repair lobbies, and also of the next frontier of the movement.

The passage of this strongest-yet Right to Repair bill owes a lot to its tireless sponsor, Oregon State Senator Janeen Sollman, as well as the efforts of a strong coalition led by OSPIRG state director Charlie Fisher—and repeated testimony in support from Google’s Devices and Services Director of Operations Steven Nickel, who called the bill “a compelling model for other states to follow.” 

An LG smart fridge
Smart fridges: Covered.

“I’m beyond proud of my home state for passing the strongest-yet electronics Right to Repair bill,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO, who grew up in Oregon. “By applying to most products made after 2015, this law will open up repair for the things Oregonians need to get fixed right now. And by limiting the repair-restricting practices of parts pairing, it protects fixing for years to come. We won’t stop fighting until everyone, everywhere has these rights.”

In its parts pairing and retroactivity provisions, the Oregon law goes beyond all that have passed so far. “Oregon has improved on Right to Repair laws in California, Minnesota and New York by making sure that consumers have the choice of buying new parts, used parts or third-party parts for their gadgets and gizmos,” said Executive Director of The Repair Association, Gay Gordon-Byrne.

These kinds of warnings will have to be clearer and easier to dismiss.

Curtailing Parts Pairing Will Help Independent Shops

For the first time in a US Right to Repair bill, this law requires that independent shops accessing repair materials under the bill have “a valid and unexpired certification that the person has the technical capabilities and competence necessary” to do repairs, specifically naming WISE, CompTIA A+, and NAST certifications, and allowing manufacturers to accept other certifications.  

Still, independent repair shops might be the biggest winners here, because the limits on parts pairing mean that finally they will be able to fight back against the increasing speed bumps and roadblocks that manufacturers including Apple have put in their way. 

Over the last few years, our research found that iPhone repair has become increasingly challenging to do outside an Apple-approved repair shop—despite the fact that Apple has introduced direct-to-consumer parts sales, and despite their expansion of the Independent Repair Program. The main challenge has been a system of software restrictions called parts pairing, which rely on parts being paired with a device serial number. Then, when the device does not recognize the part, it may not work at all (for instance, the iPhone selfie camera) or will work with limitations (screens missing True Tone and Auto-Brightness; batteries missing battery health) or will work but have vague and misleading warnings (“unidentified battery” even when the part is an original Apple battery, taken from an identical same-model phone). 

Rep. Courtney Neron introduces the bill on the Oregon State House legislative floor.

This bill prohibits the use of parts pairing to “prevent or inhibit an independent repair provider or an owner from installing or enabling the function of an otherwise functional part,” to “reduce the functionality or performance of” a device, or to “display misleading alerts or warnings, which the owner cannot immediately dismiss, about unidentified parts.”

That’s why, despite having announced their nationwide support for Right to Repair and having come onboard to support the bill that passed in California last year, Apple was in opposition to this bill. The bill will require them to change their parts pairing system. They complained that doing so would result in risks to customer safety, security, and privacy, but they presented no explanation for how every other major smartphone manufacturer has been able to allow selfie camera replacements, screen replacements, and battery replacements without artificially limiting features or throwing up aggressive warnings. The parts pairing provision of the bill goes into effect for products made after January 1, 2025, so Apple has a bit of time to get their ducks in a row.

“Right to Repair keeps getting stronger, and Oregon has passed the best bill yet,” said PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “By keeping products running and off the scrap heap, repair cuts waste and saves consumers money. People are tired of not being able to fix things, and lawmakers have gotten the message—and are sending that message to the manufacturers.”

Not Stopping Until We Can Fix Everything

Oregon Governor Tina Kotek’s signature marks a significant step forward in the Right to Repair movement. This law represents a major victory for consumers, independent repair shops, and the broader push towards sustainability and economic fairness in the tech industry.

Manufacturers take note: the Right to Repair wrench is the ratcheting sort. With each bill that passes, consumer protections get stronger, and the call for fully open repair ecosystems gets louder. 

If you’re ready to join the fight, find a Right to Repair advocacy network near you.