Fairphone via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

We generate way too much waste, and companies intentionally make things harder to repair. We're backing reforms to give you what you need to fix your stuff.

You buy stuff. It breaks or doesn't work right. You could throw it away and buy new stuff, but you'd rather repair it. But then you find out you can't do it yourself, you can't even bring it to a third party repair shop. You have to bring it back to the original company, which can charge an arm and a leg because there's no competition—and sometimes they just won’t fix it. And you decide to throw the thing away.

It means more cost to consumers, and also means more waste. Americans throw out 416,000 cell phones per day, and only 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled. 

We imagine a different kind of system, where instead of throwing things out, we reuse, salvage and rebuild. But that means taking on the big companies who would push us into buying more and throwing more away. The goal of our Right to Repair campaign is to give every consumer and small business access to the parts, tools and service information they need to repair products so we can keep things in use and reduce waste.

From smartphones to tractors

A recent example from Apple highlights why Right to Repair reforms are needed.

In December of 2017, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. They defended this tactic by saying it was intended to reduce performance issues, but had many people wondering if Apple was covertly pushing people to upgrade to a new phone. Regardless of intent, these issues are resolved by replacing the battery—a battery that Apple doesn’t make available to customers or third-party repair businesses.

Our survey found that this caused both a surge in third-party battery repairs and self-repair interest. 

This is also a growing issue on farms, as farmers struggle to repair newer tractors with modern electronic equipment. John Deere installs digital locks on some of its equipment, which blocks anyone but an authorized John Deere repair technician from performing repairs. 

We are leading the charge

As it became clear that Congress wasn’t going to tackle this issue, legislators in Massachusetts decided to embrace Right to Repair here at home. MASSPIRG is working with decision makers from both sides of the aisle to push this legislation through and give us the right to fix our stuff.

We know it works. Right to Repair has already been applied to auto-repair so that parts and tools needed for repair are available to customers and independent mechanics, not just dealerships. It's time we expanded this policy to all electronic products.

Wide-ranging coalition key to progress

We are building on a successful idea, with a broad coalition that appeals to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. More and more, people are experiencing this problem firsthand, especially as our smartphones struggle to last two years, and are so difficult to repair. Together with farmers—who can’t fix farm equipment without the manufacturers doing the repairs—repair businesses, and consumers who care about waste, we are working to pass Right to Repair legislation in Massachusetts and 18 other states across the country.