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Failing the Fix

Grading laptop and cell phone companies on the fixability of their products

No one walks into the store and thinks "I’m going to buy something unfixable!" But consumers often don’t know which products will last and they’ll be able to fix, or which manufacturers make fixable devices and support Right to Repair. Our new scorecard, “Failing the Fix,” ranks the most popular cell phone and laptop makers for consumers who seek to purchase easily repairable products – especially those from companies who do not fight to prevent Right to Repair.

Reparability Matters

The prevalence of unfixable stuff is a problem for both consumers and the planet. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and the U.S. EPA reports that it is now the fastest growing part of our domestic municipal waste stream. Americans spend nearly $1,500 on new electronics per household, per year – and could save a combined $40 billion if they were able to repair instead of replace products and extended lifespans by 50 percent.

In order to help consumers pick more repairable products, and incentivize manufacturers to support repair, France has required manufacturers to publish a repair score, from 0 to 10, with their products since January 2021. The information disclosed in these scores, especially when you look into the detailed breakdown of how the score was achieved, gives insight into what the repair challenges will be.

Sample French repair score labels 

In order to grade manufacturers on their support for repair and Right to Repair, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, with assistance from iFixit.com, has accumulated French repair scores across 187 devices from ten prominent manufacturers. Because repairing products is dependent on your ability to get access to necessary repair materials, our grade also reflects companies’ record of lobbying against Right to Repair, or membership in associations which are prominent Right to Repair opponents.

Consumers who seek to purchase easily repairable products – especially those from companies who do not fight to prevent Right to Repair – can use these grades as a starting point for making those evaluations. 

Additionally, an analysis of what aspects of repair score higher or lower by manufacturer, such as parts pricing or repair documentation, can help consumers understand what repair challenges might be, and also help manufacturers best address their repair shortcomings. 

Laptop Drill Down

Dell ranked highest for the ease to disassembly, despite Lenovo recording the best overall scores in the French index. Microsoft devices are much more physically repairable than their French scores might lead you to believe – however, because access to documentation and parts is limited, those devices lose points to result in a 3.87 average grade across their current models for sale in France.  

Apple lost the greatest number of points for their active lobbying against Right to Repair and support for other trade groups who are most visible in opposition, with Microsoft also losing points for direct lobbying. Lenovo received the highest scores for availability of documentation (service manuals), as well as parts pricing and availability. 

Cell phone drill down

Looking more carefully at the contributing factors to our grade for cell phones, we again see some disparities between the total French repairability index and the physical ease of opening the device. Samsung had the highest overall score, but a considerably lower score on ease of opening the device relative to Motorola. Apple and Google lost the most points due to their engagement in opposing repair-friendly legislation. 

Across the 62 phones we scored, the average total French repairability score was 6.94, and the highest score belongs to the Samsung Galaxy A03s with an 8.4 – but the device only scored a 9.4 out of 20 for disassembly. That’s slightly below the average disassembly score of 9.9. The phones tied with the highest score for disassembly are the Motorola Moto g10 and e7i Power, both with 18.9 out of 20 scores. 

About the French Reparability Scores

France debuted the first repairability scores in January 2021, ahead of an EU-wide law. These labels are meant to incentivize manufacturers to abandon unsustainable design practices such as designing products that are impossible to repair, requiring proprietary tools, refusing to provide access to tools or service instructions, and other anti-repair tactics.

On behalf of Samsung, OpinionWay investigated how the French repairability index has influenced French consumer attitudes and behavior since its introduction January 1, 2021. Among the key findings are that 71% have heard about the index, and 86% say that the index impacts their purchasing behavior – including 8 out of 10 who indicated they would give up their favorite brand for a more repairable product.

The repairability index scores devices on five criteria, with a max score of 20 for each criterion. Those criteria are: availability of repair documentation (manuals and service guides), ease of disassembly (how easy or hard it is to open the device), availability of spare parts, the affordability of spare parts (calculated as a percentage of the cost of the whole product), and a device specific category. The scores for the five categories are then summed and divided by 10 to create a total score ranging from 0 to 10.

PRIORITY ACTION
Let us fix our stuff

Manufacturers restrict access to what we need to fix our modern devices. That adds costs to consumers and increases the amount going to landfills. We should require companies to provide access to consumers and small businesses for the parts, tools, and service information we need to repair products by passing Right to Repair reforms.