New study details how much families can save when they repair electronics

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MASSPIRG details how fixing electronics instead for replacing them both pays and helps environment


New study details how much families can save when they repair electronics

MASSPIRG details how fixing electronics instead for replacing them both pays and helps environment

BOSTON — With home electronics in heavy use during the ongoing pandemic, MASSPIRG released a report Tuesday detailing just how much families can save by repairing electronic products instead of replacing them. Entitled “Repair Saves Families Big,” this new analysis, which was produced in conjunction with our Right to Repair campaign, also looks at spending habits and the importance of a strong repair economy.

“Repair provides us with an opportunity to breathe new life into our older and broken devices,” said Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG Executive Director. “Instead of buying new gadgets every time our old ones give us trouble, we should require manufacturers to give us better information, and then turn to our communities to meet our repair needs. This approach is part of what will get us to zero waste in our state.”

Specifically, Massachusetts households could save $330 per year by repairing our electronics on our own or going to independent repair shops, according to the report’s analysis. This adds up to a total savings of $875 million across the state. This number may seem staggering, but so is how much we spend on new devices. As of 2019, American households spend approximately $1,480 annually purchasing new electronic products.

Often it’s more difficult than it should be to fix our devices. MASSPIRG supports Right to Repair reforms which expand access to parts and service information needed to fix gadgets, found in HD260, introduced by State Representative Claire Cronin. 

“I am proud to file this bill again to establish a digital right to repair in Massachusetts. The bill will expand consumer access to repair information for electronic products, reduce the cost of repairs, and open the marketplace for competition,” said Representative Claire Cronin (D-Easton), House Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. “Massachusetts residents made their support clear for consumer rights issues when they recently voted in favor of the ballot question to expand our current right to repair law for motor vehicles. There is strong public support for this bill and I look forward to advocating for it again this session.”

“Many of my customers are shocked to find out that many repairs can be done in under 30 minutes and cost a fraction of the price of a new device,” said Bryan Harwell, owner of Replay’d in Allston. “If the general public knew how easy it was to repair their devices, my customer base would explode.”

Repair is not only good for our pocketbooks, but is also better for our planet. When we replace our electronics, we retire our old devices to landfills where they can leak such toxic heavy chemicals as lead, mercury and cadmium. With American families generating about 176 pounds of electronic waste each year, Americans are big contributors to the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

Beyond aiding the environment and saving families’ money, seeking out neighborhood repair shops also supports the local economy. Instead of looking to overseas manufacturers to carry out repairs, an increased reliance on local repair businesses can provide jobs for community members, decrease the out-of-pocket cost of repair, and increase the speed of service.

“Relying on the manufacturer for repairs means waiting days or weeks after shipping your device to some remote factory location,” said Harwell. “At a local repair business like mine, you can speak directly with the person repairing your device and get direct insight in a matter of minutes.”

Repair is critical to keeping our electronic products functional without breaking our budgets. Unfortunately, manufacturers often elbow out independent repair by limiting access to the tools, parts and manuals we need to repair our devices, the report explains. In doing this, they limit the capacity for creating resilient communities that quickly recover from global disruptions.

“We’ve spoken to many repair shop owners who have been forced to turn away customers because they did not have the correct tools or parts,” added Domenitz. “These devices could have been easily repaired if manufacturers committed to what’s best for customers, local businesses and our communities.”