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After Apple Slows Phones, Interest In Repair Spikes In Illinois

A new survey released by Illinois PIRG, "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 added 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.

"We should be free to fix our stuff," said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG director. "Repairing products that still have useful life reduces needless waste, but unfortunately, companies are making products harder to repair. This survey demonstrates that consumers are looking for more options to repair their phones."

Among the survey's findings:

  • Independent repair businesses reported a 37% increase in weekly battery replacement service requests since Dec. 20. This finding comes from a national survey of 164 independent repair businesses.
  • Self-repair interest surged as well - traffic from Illinois residents to iPhone battery repair instructions went up 163%. More than 8,550 people from Illinois viewed instructions in between Dec. 20 and Jan. 22.
  • eWaste is a growing concern. Illinois throws out an estimated 15,300 cell phones per day, our share of the 141 million phones tossed each year.

Eighteen states, including Illinois, have introduced "Right to Repair" or "Fair Repair" laws which guarantee access to the parts and tools needed for repair. House Bill 3030 was introduced by Rep. David Harris (R - 53rd).

In December, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. Apple defended the practice, claiming it was intended to reduce performance problems, but suspicion spread that Apple was customers 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 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, James Rylek of Rylek Mobile Cell Repair in West Chicago said: "I see so many people want to just toss it and get a new phone, but then find out parts are cheaper." Syed Kazmi of Phototronics in Schaumburg said: "Apple is a seller not a repair shop. It should concentrate on sales."

Illinois PIRG supports Right to Repair reforms because they reduce waste by limiting companies abilities to push customers to toss products that still have useful life.

"Fixing something instead of throwing it away to buy new is better for the environment," said Scarr. "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. But the first thing we need to repair are our laws."


Comments welcome.


Posted on February 5, 2018

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