California may add its voice to a growing chorus of states seeking to enact « Right to Repair » laws that would let owners of mobile and other electronic devices get their hardware fixed by third parties without voiding manufacturer warranties.

California Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-District 13) introduced a « Right to Repair » Act that would require electronics makers to offer diagnostic and repair information, as well as equipment or service parts, to product owners and independent repair shops. Talamentes’ bill joins efforts in 17 other states that have introduced similar Right-to-Repair legislation.

Talamantes and others argue that consumers who can’t afford the high price of manufacturer-based repair services are increasingly forced to prematurely replace durable goods, such as smartphones or laptops.

Repairing and reusing electronics is not only a more efficient use of the scarce materials that go into manufacturing the products, she argued, « but it can also stimulate local economies instead of unsustainable overseas factories. »

« People shouldn’t be forced to upgrade to the newest model every time a replaceable part on their smartphone or home appliance breaks, » Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said in a statement. « These companies are profiting at the expense of our environment and our pocketbooks as we become a throw-away society that discards over 6 million tons of electronics every year. »

Along with California, the list of states that have proposed Right-to-Repair legislation includes: Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia.

Apple declined to comment directly on the issue and instead pointed to a buzzfeed.com story to explain its stance. Samsung and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apple has a reputation for making its smartphones and other electronics difficult to repair, and each new generation has become more so. For example, iFixit.com, a website that posts information about how to repair mobile and other devices, gave the iPhone 8 a six out of 10 rating for the ease with which it could be repaired by an owner. The iPhone 7 received a seven out of 10 reparability rating last year.

« Six out of 10; that sounds like a D to me, » said William Stofega, IDC’s program director for Mobile Phones and Drones. Stofega pointed to efforts by vendors to intentionally make it difficult for users to fix their products.

For example, laptop manufacturers often use screws for which drivers are progressively difficult to find. Apple, for example, tends to change the screw types for its MacBook with each new generation. « They’re not just flathead or Phillips, » Stofega said.

One aspect playing into the push for Right-to-Repair laws is the fact that consumers now tend to hold onto smartphones and other devices longer than in the past – partly because they are more expensive today, costing as much as $1,000 for a smartphone like the iPhone X.

IFixit has been a staunch advocate of Right-to-Repair legislation. When visiting its site, readers are often greeted with a pop-up message that encourages them to support the myriad of legislative efforts.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.



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