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Consumers often don’t know which products will last and they’ll be able to fix, or which manufacturers make fixable devices and support Right to Repair. A new scorecard by Illinois PIRG Education Fund, “Failing the Fix,” ranks the most popular cell phone and laptop makers for consumers who seek to purchase easily repairable products – especially those from companies who do not fight to prevent Right to Repair.
“No one walks into the store and thinks ‘I’m going to buy something unfixable,’” said David Lee, Illinois PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign associate. “People should be able to buy products that will last, be repairable when they break, and which are made by companies that respect our Right to Repair.”
Over the last year, France has required manufacturers to publish a repair score, from 0 to 10, with their products. “Failing to Fix” collected the French repair scores of 187 devices from 10 popular manufacturers, weighed a few additional factors related to how repair-friendly the manufacturers and products were, and came up with a final score.
The report found that the prevalence of unfixable stuff is a problem for both consumers and the planet. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that electronic waste is now the fastest growing part of our domestic municipal waste stream, and an earlier PIRG report found Illinoisans could save an annually combined $1.6 billion if they were able to repair instead of replacing their products.
The report concludes that there are large disparities in device repairability, and it can be difficult for consumers to assess that when they shop -- if they don’t know where to look.
The Right to Repair coalition, which includes Illinois PIRG, iFixit and Repair.org, has been calling for better access to parts, tools and information needed to repair modern devices.
“A repair score is important information for consumers that can impact the value of the device. If it can be fixed and kept in use, it is worth more over time,” explained Lee. “The fact is, no products should be unfixable. Lawmakers should pass Right to Repair bills to ensure that we can access necessary parts and tools for each product we buy.”
Representative Michelle Mussman, Democrat from Schaumburg, has been a champion in the Illinois legislature for Right to Repair. She picks up where her former Republican Colleague, Representative David Harris, left off with the Digital Fair Repair Act, which would open up repair to independent repair businesses and product owners.
“Right to repair is a bi-partisan issue that affects every smartphone owner,” said Mussman. “Right to repair legislation would put the power in the hands of Illinoisan device owners as they save money by fixing their own phones or by going to independent repair shops.”
Independent repair businesses can do some repairs but have been locked out by manufacturers from doing many of the repairs themselves.
“Given the right parts or manuals, I could easily do many of these repairs myself. But the types of repairs I can do are really dependent on what the smartphone company decides,” explained Sam Devia, owner of a small repair business in Chicago called eRepair. “I feel bad because I have to turn customers away. They’ll then go to the manufacturer who will say they need to buy a new phone or they’ll charge them a ridiculous price for a basic repair. This hurts my business as well because I never know what design choices the tech companies will make each year that might make a part of my business impossible.”
The Failing the Fix scorecard is part of Illinois PIRG’s work to recognizeNational Consumer Protection Week 2022 by putting actionable consumer protection information in the hands of all Amercans. All week, PIRG Education Fund is providing consumer protection tips and tools to help Americans address some of the most common consumer issues that threaten our health, safety or financial security. To see all of our resources for consumers, go to:https://illinoispirg.org/blogs/blog/usp/national-consumer-protection-week-2022
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