Diverse coalition of consumers, small businesses, farmers and hospitals call on Illinois legislature to pass Right to Repair

Media Contacts
Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Illinois PIRG

A diverse coalition of consumers, small businesses, farmers and hospitals urged an Illinois House committee on Thursday to pass  “Right to Repair” legislation – House Bill 3061 (Mussman) – that would end repair restrictions manufacturers place on products from cell phones to tractors. Right to Repair would ensure device owners can fix their products on their own or through independent repair technicians, rather than being forced to rely on the manufacturer.

“Manufacturers have been increasingly limiting and monopolizing who has the ability to repair their products. This has not only created unnecessary frustration and headaches for consumers, but it’s wasteful and harmful to the environment because people are compelled to throw out things that could often be easily and affordably fixed,” said Illinois State Rep. Michelle Mussman. “That’s why we need Right to Repair legislation that’s good for everyone – farmers, hospital patients, you and me – living in Illinois.”

Illinois PIRG research has found that repair could save Illinois families $1.6 billion per year. Right to Repair could also decrease electronic waste, the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Illinois households produce 429,000 tons of electronic waste per year, which adds toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium into state landfills.

The issue has gained new relevance during the pandemic as manufacturers continue to lock out qualified hospital-employed and independent technicians from repairing critical medical equipment. That leads to delays, increased costs and impacts on patient safety.

“Our experienced team deftly performs over 85% of the needed repair and maintenance service in-house. If a manufacturer refuses to provide the training or service literature to support a repair and we cannot fix broken medical devices in a timely fashion, ultimately, it is the patient who bears the brunt of those delays,” said Mark Newell, Director of Operations Support, Healthcare Technology Management, and Clinical Engineering at Advocate Aurora Health. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue with so many patients relying on ventilators at hospitals across the country. Our ability to quickly repair vents and other equipment can save lives.”

The Right to Repair movement is gaining momentum. Over the summer, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for the Federal Trade Commission to prevent manufacturers from restricting people from fixing their own equipment and devices. Apple, historically one of the country’s main antagonists of the Right to Repair movement, announced in November modest but meaningful self-repair policy changes for the iPhone 12 and 13. 

“Across the country, the Right to Repair movement is made up of a diverse, bipartisan and growing group of people,” said Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr. “What unites us is simple: we just want to fix our stuff.”

Illinois PIRG’s testimony before the committee can be found here.

Manufacturers have made a variety of arguments defending their repair restrictions including: proprietary information, trade secrets, safety, security and even environmental protection. However, a 2021 unanimous Federal Trade Commission report found “scant evidence” justifying repair restrictions. 

The legislation would require that personal electronics, medical and farm equipment manufacturers provide access to repair materials, such as replacement parts, tools, repair manuals, and diagnostic software at “fair and reasonable” prices.

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