Independent NYC shops square off with big business over right to fix your own stuff

“I’m old enough to remember the TV repair store, the appliance repair store, the computer repair store,” Gordon-Byrne said–businesses, she added, that are fading away. 

Gordon-Byrne is leader of the Repair Association, a coalition of independent repair shops and consumer protection groups pushing for right-to-repair laws, which would require that product makers such as Apple and Samsung provide independent shops with the parts and information required for repairs, rather than just authorized dealers. 

New York is among 25 states considering such a law. Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy is hosting a forum on May 5 for New York’s bill, which she is sponsoring, called the Digital Fair Repair Act. 

Cat and mouse

Advocates for the right-to-repair law say that independent shops have the incentive to provide better, cheaper service than the manufacturer or its affiliated repair locations. The legislation would make it possible for those stores to purchase parts and schematics directly from the companies that make the products, putting an end to the complicated digital scavenger hunts the repair business currenty requires.

“It is this constant cat-and-mouse game,” said Louis Rossmann, owner of Rossmann Repair Group, an Apple-focused shop near the Flatiron District. “I always have to wonder with the next generation, will I be able to fix it or will they win?” 

While running a repair business for more than a decade, Rossmann has built a following of about 1.5 million on YouTube, where he is often critical of Apple’s policies and posts videos showing how to repair the company’s products. He is a leading activist for the right-to-repair movement and, in March, launched a GoFundMe to raise money to support right-to-repair legislation across the U.S. The effort has raised about $690,000.   

Industry response

Groups representing consumer goods manufacturers have intensely lobbied against the bills. The only right-to-repair legislation approved in the U.S. to this point is in Massachusetts, where residents voted in favor of a ballot initiative in 2012 that required auto manufacturers to provide repair information to independent shops. 

Manufacturing trade groups say that right-to-repair…