Why California needs Right to Repair

This week, a CALPIRG-sponsored bill on Right to Repair advanced out of its first committee. Here's the testimony from advocates on why they support Right to Repair

Sander Kushen

Former Consumer Advocate, CALPIRG


Testimony 1: Kevin O’Reilly, CALPIRG

Thank you Chair Umberg and members of the committee. My name is Kevin O’Reilly, I am the Right to Repair Campaign Director with U.S. PIRG and CALPIRG, a co-sponsor of the bill. 

Electronic waste is the fastest growing part of our municipal waste stream—Californian households alone produce some 1.1 million tons of e-waste each year, which leech toxic chemicals into our environment.

This number is so high in part because manufacturers of devices ranging from smartphones to refrigerators restrict access to necessary repair materials. As a result, consumers are forced to go to the manufacturer, who can set repair prices so high that it makes sense to just get a new device.

SB 983 would restore consumers’ repair choice. It will help to address our e-waste crisis and reduce the need for unnecessary mining and production. It will save Californians households some $4.3 Billion per year. And it is broadly popular across the political spectrum: our survey found that 75% of Californians support Right to Repair, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Opponents of the bill will run out all sorts of arguments against it, including concerns regarding safety and cybersecurity. As organizations devoted to consumer protection, PIRG and fellow co-sponsor Consumer Reports would be willing to hear out proof showing that SB983 would cause such harm. But that is not what the evidence shows. The Federal Trade Commission investigated these and other concerns and found quote “scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions” unquote. They also stated that the changes we seek are quote “well supported by comments submitted for the record and testimony provided.”

Right to Repair is an idea whose time has come. It has earned support across the political spectrum and across the country, including in the Oval Office—President Biden has reiterated support for these reforms. 

As a native Californian, I have always been proud to come from a state that has led on so many critical issues. You have the opportunity to take a huge step forward for consumers and the environment by advancing this bill. I urge your aye vote and would be happy to answer any questions


Testimony 2: Brian Fox, Homeboy Electronics Recycling

Good afternoon Chair Umberg and Members, my name is Brian Fox and I’m the Director of Special Projects for Homeboy Electronics Recycling. We’re one of the many divisions of LA-based Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation program in the world. We ​​train formerly gang-involved or incarcerated individuals to repurpose and fix electronics, and then sell or donate those electronics back into the community

We’re pleased to join the voices of over 70 California-based repair shops who have signed on in support of SB 983. This important legislation will help our business and businesses like ours access the parts, tools, and service information we need to cut consumer costs, reduce electronic waste, and better serve our communities.

One of the biggest challenges to our work is accessing appropriate parts, tools, and service information needed to do repair work. This is often purposeful on the manufacturers’ part: By restricting access to parts they can have a monopoly over repair services and keep costs high.

It can often be difficult and time consuming to find good-quality parts, such as certified aftermarket batteries for cell phones and laptops. It’s bad when we have to tell customers that we can’t find a part and can’t do the repair they need. But it’s maybe even worse if we do a repair, then the part fails. 

The same frustrating search for parts and tools is happening in repair shops across the state, which results in lost time and money when a part proves to be ultimately unavailable. Instead of ending up in a community member’s hands and helping to bridge the digital divide, these electronics end up in the scrap heap.

SB 983 would allow repair businesses like ours to spend less time looking for parts and more time growing our businesses, hiring and training new technicians, and serving our communities. It would also give California consumers access to cheaper and more dependable repair services.  

I thank Senator Eggman for her leadership, and urge your “aye” vote.


Sander Kushen

Former Consumer Advocate, CALPIRG

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