Fairphone via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

We generate way too much waste, and companies intentionally make things harder to repair. We're backing reforms to give you what you need to fix your stuff.

You buy stuff. It breaks or doesn't work right. You could throw it away and buy new stuff, but you'd rather repair it. But then you find out you can't do it yourself, you can't even bring it to a third party repair shop. You have to bring it back to the original company, which can charge an arm and a leg because there's no competition—and sometimes they just won’t fix it. And you decide to throw the thing away.

It means more cost to consumers, and also means more waste. Americans throw out 416,000 cell phones per day, and only 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled. 

We imagine a different kind of system, where instead of throwing things out, we reuse, salvage and rebuild. But that means taking on the big companies who would push us into buying more and throwing more away. The goal of our Right to Repair campaign is to give every consumer and small business access to the parts, tools and service information they need to repair products so we can keep things in use and reduce waste.

Repair impacts many aspects of our lives

As the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare, repair affects many aspects of our lives:

  • When we shifted to remote learning, school districts in Maryland experienced massive laptop shortages as they shifted to e-learning. Repair rights would help close the digital divide, enabling schools to maintain and refurbish equipment, saving taxpayers money and expanding digital access.
  • As ventilators and other hospital equipment was pressed into service in spring 2020, health care providers struggled to maintain their devices. Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp joined the call pushing reluctant manufacturers to share repair information for ventilators.
  • And, as Marylanders struggle with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 economic crisis, repair rights are estimated to save Marylanders $735 million per year, leaving more money in consumer pockets, and more money recirculating in the local repair economy instead of going overseas.
From smartphones to tractors

A recent example from Apple highlights why Right to Repair reforms are needed.

In December of 2017, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. They defended this tactic by saying it was intended to reduce performance issues, but had many people wondering if Apple was covertly pushing people to upgrade to a new phone. Regardless of intent, these issues are resolved by replacing the battery—a battery that Apple doesn’t make available to customers or third-party repair businesses.

Our survey found that this caused both a surge in third-party battery repairs and self-repair interest. 

This is also a growing issue on farms, as farmers struggle to repair newer tractors with modern electronic equipment. John Deere installs digital locks on some of its equipment, which blocks anyone but an authorized John Deere repair technician from performing repairs. 

20 states have filed legislation

As it became clear that Congress wasn’t going to take this issue up, states across the country started moving forward. Right to Repair legislation has attracted bipartisan support as a common-sense reform. In Maryland, State Senator Katie Fry Hester and Delegate Jessica Feldmark have introduced legislation to remove repair restrictions. 

We know it works. Right to Repair has already been applied to auto-repair so that parts and tools needed for repair are available to customers and independent mechanics, not just dealerships. It's time we expanded this policy to all electronic products.

Wide-ranging coalition key to progress

We are building on a successful idea, with a broad coalition that appeals to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  Maryland's bill has bi-partisan support and is backed by the Attorney General, Maryland Farm Bureau, consumer rights advocates, environmentalists, cyber security experts, and farmers.

More and more, people are experiencing this problem firsthand, especially as our smartphones struggle to last two years, and are so difficult to repair. Together with farmers—who can’t fix farm equipment without the manufacturers doing the repairs—repair businesses, and consumers who care about waste, we are working to pass Right to Repair legislation in states across the country.

Add your name
Remove barriers to repair in Maryland

It's getting harder and more expensive for consumers to fix our products. We are calling on the Maryland legislature to remove barriers to repair that are anti-consumer and bad for the environment.