Six reasons the Washington state legislature should pass Right to Repair in 2023

As we ring in the new year and look ahead to the changes we want to see in 2023, the policy at the top of WashPIRG’s list is the Right to Repair personal electronic devices.

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PIRG research found that repair can save the average household about $330 per year and a total $40 billion across the country.

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Dax Tate
Dax Tate

Former Zero Waste Campaign Associate, WashPIRG

As we ring in the new year and look ahead to the changes we want to see in 2023, the policy at the top of WashPIRG’s list is Right to Repair.

It is important to acknowledge how important technology has become in our society. Breaking a phone screen likely means losing contact with friends and family, while spilling coffee on a laptop keyboard could cause a lost day (or days) of remote work.

Unfortunately, manufacturer restrictions on access to parts, tools, and information make it more difficult for consumers and independent repair shops to fix their devices. As a result, we end up paying more and waiting longer for repairs, or just tossing otherwise-fixable devices in favor of newer models.

That is why WashPIRG is supporting a policy in the state legislature that would guarantee Right to Repair for personal electronics. Right to Repair would make it easier for us to fix our own devices by expanding access to manufacturers’ spare parts, physical and software tools, and diagnostic and schematic information. Here are six reasons that our state leaders must pass Right to Repair in 2023:

1. Right to Repair saves consumers money

The average American household owns 24 electronic devices and spends roughly $1,480 each year on new ones. U.S. PIRG has found that families could save 22% of that each year if they extended the lifespan of their devices by half through repair. That’s $330 per household, or $960 million statewide.

But these savings are only possible when consumers and repair shops can access the parts, tools, and information necessary to fix damaged devices. To save millions for Washington families, the legislature needs to pass Right to Repair.

2. Right to Repair is good for the planet

Our habit of replacing devices with the newest models every time they get damaged is unsustainable. Washingtonians are throwing away over 8700 phones every day and producing roughly 256,000 tons of e-waste annually. E-waste, the fastest growing form of waste, often contains dangerous chemicals like lead and mercury.

What’s more, researchers have found that 85% of a smartphone’s environmental impact comes from the raw materials used to manufacture it. We are extracting resources at an unsustainable rate, and repair would reduce demand for newly-manufactured devices. Given that both throwing out broken devices and manufacturing new ones is damaging our planet, legislators have an environmental obligation to pass Right to Repair and make it easier to fix our electronics.

3. Right to Repair helps to bridge the digital divide

Repair monopolies do not affect everyone equally. While repair may be relatively accessible in urban areas, the limited number of manufacturer-authorized repair providers leaves rural or suburban consumers with few options. For Washingtonians outside of urban centers, then, a broken device likely means a long trip to the nearest authorized repair shop, or even longer shipping times.

The FTC found in a recent report that the financial burden of repair restrictions is likely greater for communities of color and lower-income Americans, who in turn are more likely to depend on their smartphones for internet access. Manufacturer restrictions likely also have a disproportionate impact on minority-owned small businesses, many of which are in the repair industry. Especially in today’s age of remote work and online classes, being unable to fix a device can be a major setback in school or the workplace. Right to Repair would reduce the digital divide by making repair more accessible for Washingtonians.

4. Right to Repair supports small businesses

People can’t afford to wait for a manufacturer halfway across the country to fix their devices. As a result, repair shops have cropped up in towns both large and small across the U.S., giving consumers convenient options for repair, offering technical training and education, and creating stable, local jobs for engineers. Many repair shops are small, independently-run businesses which cannot survive when manufacturers prevent them from performing repairs. Right to Repair would protect these small, local businesses.

5. Right to Repair protects our cybersecurity

A popular argument against Right to Repair is that it will open up our devices to hackers, making them less secure. While cybersecurity is an important issue, Right to Repair – which focuses almost entirely on the availability of hardware such as spare parts and repair tools, and diagnostic software that simply identifies existing problems – is no threat. In fact, according to cybersecurity experts at SecuRepairs, “the freedom to repair, fix and tinker” is a vital part of securing our devices against cybercriminals. When repair is made easy and accessible, devices are kept in better, more secure condition.

6. Right to Repair is popular

Because of these reasons and others, Right to Repair is gaining momentum nationwide. A bill guaranteeing the Right to Repair personal electronics recently passed the New York legislature with near-unanimous majorities in both chambers, for instance, and is awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature. At the federal level, the FTC published a report in May of 2021 debunking popular arguments against Right to Repair, while President Biden issued an executive order in July 2021 calling on the FTC to pursue Right to Repair regulations.

In Washington’s third district, Representative-Elect Marie Gluesenkamp Perez upset her heavily-favored opponent in part by campaigning on Right to Repair, claiming that “DIY is in our DNA.” That message resonated in Washington, where polling from the Northwest Progressive Institute has shown that 69% of likely voters support Right to Repair, compared to just 13% opposed.

Legislators have a great opportunity in the coming session to embrace a policy that saves consumers money, protects the planet, helps to bridge the digital divide, supports small businesses, and bolsters our cybersecurity. We can choose to either embrace this popular policy, or risk being left behind as other states begin to enact the Right to Repair.

Take action to support Right to Repair

As legislators debate the Right to Repair this session, it is important that they hear from people across the state who are concerned about this issue.

If you are a Washingtonian who wants the Right to Repair, sign our petition here.

If you own a repair shop and want to break up manufacturer repair monopolies, sign our Washington Businesses for Right to Repair petition here.

Lastly, one of the best ways to make your voice heard is to call your local legislator. You can use this website to find the legislators for your district, and their contact information. Call them and let them know you support Right to Repair.


Dax Tate

Former Zero Waste Campaign Associate, WashPIRG

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