Failing the Fix: Consumer watchdog grades repairability of household electronics
Americans are spending about $1,480 per household on new electronics every year
InvestigateTV - Americans could save a combined $40 billion a year by repairing electronic devices instead of replacing them, according to a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG).
But sometimes difficulties repairing the device might mean buying a new product might be the cheaper option. That’s why the PIRG created a repairability scorecard for popular cellphone and laptop brands.
“We found that there is a big difference between the manufacturer and the product as to how repairable it was,” Lucas Gutterman, who authored PIRG’s ‘Failing the Fix’ scorecard, said. “And we found that price wasn’t necessarily the indicator of repairability.”
The scorecard grades manufacturers based on several factors, including how easy it is to physically open the device, the availability of parts and how expensive they were, as well as documentation about repairs.
Points were also deducted from companies that lobbied against Right to Repair reforms.
Gutterman said scores improved from their first report, which he believes indicates manufacturers are incentivized by theses scores to design more repairable products.
The scorecard found that Apple MacBooks are twice as difficult to open and repair as Dell laptops. It also found that Chromebooks, while more affordable than other devices, are less repairable than other laptops.
“We know that consumers really care about reparability,” Gutterman said. “There was a survey done on repair scores in France that showed that folks would actually be willing to switch their favorite brands to a different one if it was more repairable. So, manufacturers should really be concerned about repairability when they’re making their products.”
Gutterman recommended making sure the manufacturer provided documentation about repairs before buying a device. He also said to check the product’s warranties and to make sure any tools or parts needed for repairs are available for you to buy.
InvestigateTV reached out to all the companies mentioned in the report. Dell, Microsoft and Samsung provided the below statements.
As part of our work to accelerate the circular economy, Dell Technologies has a long-standing track record of intentionally designing our products to be easier to repair and recycle. We support consumers’ choice to repair their device or seek out a convenient local repair option that works for them. To ensure security, we recommend Dell-authorized repair options that have safety, quality, data security and privacy built in.
In terms of our efforts to make devices easier to repair, we take several steps, including:
- Design products with easier reuse, recycling and repair in mind. This includes modularity, simple disassembly and minimal adhesives.
- Our engineers work collaboratively with leading repair and recycling companies, researchers and standards to understand challenges and improve the repairability of our products.
- We provide customers with access to resources and options to find out more about how to repair their devices safely, including: Manuals and downloads are accessible online (SW, drivers, BIOS, firmware, OS, security patches). We publish our parts lists online and enable customers to order those parts to conduct repairs, themselves. We have developed the Dell AR Assistant, a free augmented reality application available via Google Play and Apple Stores, which provides step-by-step part replacement instructions for 89 systems to-date, extending serviceability capability to customers directly and enabling them to make repairs to their system
Microsoft: We are committed to designing high quality, durable products that deliver on the look, feel and experience customers need and want in a premium device, and that includes a commitment to designing for increased repairability while balancing other factors such as security, safety, and functionality. Microsoft supports expanding options for customers to have their devices repaired in a safe, sustainable, and reliable manner.
Samsung: We’re committed to providing accessible and convenient repair options for our customers across the country. We continue to expand our robust network of authorized and affiliated mobile repair locations and authorized repair providers for consumer electronics. We also recently announced an expansion of our self-repair program, which now features genuine repair parts for the Galaxy Book Pro 15″ and Galaxy Book Pro 360 15″ PCs, as well as the Galaxy S22, S22+ and S22 Ultra family of products. In collaboration with iFixit, the leading online repair community, owners of these products have access to many authentic components and instructional materials to take repair into their own hands.
Google and Apple have not yet responded to InvestigateTV’s request for comment.
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