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After Apple Slows Phones, Interest In Repair Spikes in Washington

  • Written by WashPIRG Staff
A new survey released today by WashPIRG (Washington Public Interest Research Group), “Recharge Repair,” found a surge in consumer demand for phone repair following the revelation Apple was slowing phones with older batteries. “Recharge Repair” identifies the barriers to battery replacement and phone repair that add to long repair delays for consumers. The findings support the need for Right to Repair reforms to grant consumers and third parties access to the parts and tools to repair cell phones and other electronics.
 
Among the findings were:
 
We surveyed 164 independent repair businesses nationally who reported a 37% increase in weekly battery replacement service requests since Dec. 20.
 
Self-repair interest surged as well – traffic from Washington residents to iPhone battery repair instructions went up 174%. 5,942 people from Washington viewed instructions in between Dec. 20 and Jan. 22.
 
eWaste is a growing concern. Washington throws out an estimated 8,700 cell phones per day, our share of the 141 million phones tossed each year.
 
“We should be free to fix our stuff,” said Elise Orlick, WashPIRG director. “We should be working to reduce needless waste – repairing things that still have life -- but companies use their power to make things harder to repair. This survey shows that people are clearly looking for more options to repair their phones.”
 
18 states, including Washington, have introduced “Right to Repair” or “Fair Repair” laws which guarantee access to the parts and tools needed for repair.
 
“Batteries fail before the technology in smartphones and tablets which is why we are fighting for a law to require repairability of batteries — making  advanced technology available to more consumers,” said Washington State Rep. Jeff Morris, who sponsored the bill which was advanced out of the state’s House Technology and Economic Development Committee last week.
 
In December, 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 which Apple doesn’t make available to customer or third-party repair businesses.
 
“These companies go to extraordinary lengths to keep people from repairing their devices. They glue parts to the casing so they can’t be removed, they refuse to sell replacement parts, they digitally lock devices to prevent third party repair,” said Repair.org Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne. “Apple is telling some people they can’t fix their batteries until April. Certainly, there are people with easily fixable phones who will get new ones instead of waiting. Why won’t they just sell their original batteries to other repair businesses? This problem would be over in a few days.”
 
As part of the survey, Casey Parish, of Mobi Repair in Seattle, provided this story, “We have had customers go to the Apple Store because their phone wouldn’t charge and they begin selling them their newest phone. They left frustrated and came to our store when there was only just lint crammed in their charging port preventing the port from charging it took us five minutes to clean out the port appropriately. We didn’t even charge the customer.”
WashPIRG supports Right to Repair reforms because they reduce waste by limiting companies abilities to push customers to toss products that still have life.
 
“Fixing something instead of throwing it away to buy something new is better for the environment. Repair should be the easier, more affordable choice and it can be. People are resourceful, they can find ways to fix things, to keep them from going to waste, sitting in a landfill somewhere,” said Orlick. “But the first thing we need to repair are our laws.”  

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