NEWS RELEASE: About half of Mass. repair shops worry they could close unless Right to Repair bill passes

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BOSTON -While Massachusetts has been the national leader on the right to repair for cars, the fight over whether consumers can fix their cell phones, appliances and other devices has yet to be resolved. Thursday at the State House, leading repair advocates and lawmakers called on the state Legislature to advance twin Digital Right to Repair (HB 341/SB 166) bills that would give Bay Staters the right to fix their own stuff.

“The right to repair small electronic devices is important to my constituents and to people all over Massachusetts,” commented state Rep. Adrian Madaro (East Boston), the chief House sponsor of the measure. “Giving consumers the right to fix their devices saves them money, reduces electronic waste, and makes big companies more accountable to their customers.” 

Companies regularly restrict access to the spare parts, tools and information that local repair people and consumers need to fix their products. If passed into law, the Digital Right to Repair bill would establish fair and reasonable terms for manufacturers to provide consumers with what they need to fix products.

PIRG and iFixit surveyed 241 repair shops, including 28 in Massachusetts. Of the surveyed local shops, 46% reported that they might have to close their doors unless lawmakers pass Right to Repair reforms. Ninety-three percent believed if the legislation dies, they could serve fewer customers, and 89 percent said they have turned away customers because of restrictions to parts, materials or information.  

“I’ve personally talked to hundreds of repair shops. They are worried about what will happen to their shops unless lawmakers stand up to the big manufacturers,” said Nathan Proctor, PIRG’s Right to Repair National Campaign Director.“These survey results underscore the urgency for lawmakers to get this done.” 

Photo by Leise Jones

Among the proponents at the press event was Dan Jaffe, of iFixit, the world’s largest catalog of repair guides, who said he has visited the State House several times to advocate for the right to repair. 

“As part of the repair industry, I can see the writing on the wall,” Jaffe said. “We either remove repair barriers, guarantee access to repair materials, or we will start to lose our local repair businesses. We already have lost too many.“

MASSPIRG also released part of a poll commissioned by the Repair Preservation Group, a small nonprofit started by repair shops. The scientifically representative poll of 1,009 Bay State voters was conductioned last June. Residents were asked about their feelings on the right to repair their electronics. Questions were framed around a potential ballot measure which was not pursued. This survey found overwhelming support. When asked if they would vote “Yes” on a ballot question that required manufacturers of digital electronic devices to provide device owners and independent repair providers access to parts tools, diagrams needed to repair electronics — and after hearing both sides of the issue — 81 percent of voters indicated they would vote yes, while only 7 percent would vote no. 

Respondents also were asked if this statement was problematic or not: “Large amounts of electronic devices get thrown away because manufacturers would rather have consumers replace devices than repair them.” Eighty-eight percent of respondents said it was a problem and 72% said it was a major problem. 

Similar bills are pending in state legislatures around the country. Recently, Apple, after years of balking at the notion of providing its customers with the right to repair its products, started allowing customers to order spare parts and service tools, though barriers still remain

“There are literally thousands of reasons to support this bill,” commented Janet Domenitz, MASSPIRG’s executive director. “According to a report we did a few years ago, in Massachusetts, approximately 8,100 cell phones are thrown out each day. Electronic waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in the country. The right to repair will reduce some of the most toxic waste we have.”

The Legislature is scheduled to end the 2021-2022 session at the end of July, which leaves approximately 8 weeks to act on thousands of bills. With a favorable report from the Consumer Protection Committee issued in February, advocates hope the bill can proceed through the Legislature and get to the governor’s desk this session. 

Link to repair shop survey

Link to selected polling questions