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Illinois Consumer Advocates Push Right To Repair Laws

Hand holding tool to make computer repairs
Illinois PIRG
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Consumer advocates say the pandemic has shown there is a need for Right To Repair laws.

Consumer advocates are pushing Illinois to adopt Right to Repair laws to give consumers the information and tools they need to fix their equipment when it breaks.Terry Ballantini is chief operating officer at Normal Gadgets, an electronics repair store in Bloomington. He said business rose 17% last year and has increased more in 2021, mainly because of the pandemic. However, Ballantini said Apple and other electronics manufacturers make it difficult for consumers and stores like his to make basic repairs.

“This is pretty serious,” Ballantini said. “COVID has dramatized the fact that people are home on their devices more than ever and breaking their devices more than ever, but what happens when your Apple store is closed because of the pandemic?”

Right To Repair laws would require manufacturers to give consumers and repair shops instructions on how to fix the gadgets on their own.

Too often, Ballantini said, manufacturers try to discourage consumers from taking their gadgets to repair shops by telling them replacements parts won’t work unless they go to the manufacturer.

“When you have circumstances like that, it puts doubt and fear in front of the customer that shouldn’t be there, because we have the absolute right to fix their devices and should have that right,” Ballantini said.

Sabrina Clevenger
Credit courtesy
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Sabrina Clevenger

Sabrina Clevenger is an associate with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). She said electronic manufacturers make getting repairs such a costly hassle most people end up replacing their gadgets instead.

“It’s really a huge course of waste and a lot of that waste is toxic and does lead to heavy metals leaking into our landfills and into our environment,” Clevenger said.

According to Illinois PIRG, Illinoisans dispose of 429,000 tons of electronics into landfills every year.

Clevenger said Right To Repair laws also would help hospitals repair ventilators and other critical medical equipment, adding that, too, has been a problem during the pandemic.

“We have talked to a lot of hospitals across the country and with our national team that had in-house technicians who were capable of repairing that equipment, but they didn’t have access to the diagnostic tools that they needed to fix it,” Clevenger said. “These ventilators just sat unused in hospitals for weeks waiting for a manufacturer to come out and repair it.”

Clevenger said John Deere tractors also have given farmers headaches because they require Deere & Co. to make repairs.

According to the repair website iFixit.com, the most popular products people tried to fix in the last year were cell phones, laptops, gaming consoles, automobiles, tablets, desktop computers, smart watches, vaccums, clothing and speakers. 

Consumer advocates have started similar efforts in 25 states.

Editor's note: WGLT corrected this story to reflect Normal Gadgets' store location. 

  

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Contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu