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Report: Companies Often Withhold Tools Needed to Fix Devices

Many companies don't provide the parts, tools or manual to customers looking to fix their own phones. (Olexandr/Adobe Stock)
Many companies don't provide the parts, tools or manual to customers looking to fix their own phones. (Olexandr/Adobe Stock)
September 3, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – Many Oregonians have the will to fix their own stuff, but a new report finds many struggle to find a way.

The consumer advocacy organization Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, or OSPIRG, partnered with the website Ifixit.com and found 890,000 Oregonians, or about one in five, visited the repair website in 2018.

The devices with the most searches included cell phones, laptops, automobiles and tablets.

But Charlie Fisher, OSPIRG’s state director, says people face barriers to repairing their electronic goods.

"There are kind of a number of pretty egregious tactics they engage in,” he states. “The most basic is just they don't provide the parts, tools or manual that folks need to, say, replace a battery or a screen or fix the home button on an iPhone."

Fisher says these barriers make sense from the perspective of a company, which will earn more money if folks buy new products rather than fixing their old ones.

But the report notes this is far from ecologically sound. The vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions associated with phones comes from their production rather than their use.

Electronic waste also is a fast growing industry. Americans discard more than 416,000 phones a day and Oregonians get rid of about 4,800 phones a day.

Fisher says there's a growing movement to put more power into consumers' hands under right-to-repair principles.

Oregon is one of 20 states that introduced legislation this year requiring companies to provide the parts needed to fix devices to everyone.

Fisher says this would be helpful to customers and also third-party repair shops that have the expertise to fix a device but not the tools.

"Rather than having to head down to the Apple store, especially if you're in rural Oregon, you could just go to your local repair shop – much like you do for your car – and get your device fixed cheaper and more quickly," he explains.

Oregon's right-to-repair bill ultimately did not pass, but Fisher says it will be introduced again next year.

He also notes this conversation encompasses more than just consumer goods such as phones.

Some tractor brands, for instance, require the dealer to fix vehicles. The same goes for medical equipment, which can be costly to fix.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR