STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 6, 2024…..Major laptop and cellphone manufacturers received middling grades on the repairability of their products in a report released Tuesday by a consumer watchdog group, which continues to push for action from Beacon Hill.
Cellphones produced by Samsung, Google, Apple, and Motorola scored between a C- and a C+ on the rubric that looks at criteria such as ease of disassembly, availability and pricing of replacement parts, and availability of a free service manual. This year marked an upgrade for Apple and Google, which received D grades on the 2023 scorecard. Motorola was downgraded from last year’s B rating.
“An average family spends nearly $1,500 on new electronics per year,” according to the report from U.S. PIRG, which added that “consumers could save a combined $40 billion if they were able to repair instead of replace products and extend the lifespans of their electronics by 50 percent.”
Apple scored the lowest in the laptop category with a D grade, while Asus rated B+ and “has overtaken Dell to score the highest grade among laptop manufacturers this year,” the report said.
Janet Domenitz of local affiliate MASSPIRG said “we are actually achieving a little bit of progress.”
“In general, I think it’s a universal cry for our products to be more repairable,” Domenitz told the News Service.
The group tied the report’s release to a “digital right to repair” bill (S 2478), which would require tech manufacturers to ensure local, independent repair shops are able to maintain their devices. The scoring rubric, besides awarding points in categories like affordability of spare parts, deducted from a company’s score “for membership in anti-Right to Repair trade organizations.”
Originally filed by Sen. Michael Brady of Brockton and Rep. Adrian Madaro of East Boston, the bill attracted 28 cosponsors and was redrafted by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection. The committee awarded the new version a favorable report last October, and it has sat since then in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
“Companies should do more to ensure their products are designed to last, both to protect consumers, and to generate less waste and protect the environment,” Brady said in a statement issued through PIRG on Tuesday.
The companies’ scores would shoot up if the bill became law, Domenitz said, because of greater accessibility of cellphone and laptop parts and more available documentation on how to repair the devices.
The MASSPIRG executive director said she was “really hopeful” about the bill’s odds in 2024.
“I think it is now the fourth or fifth session that the bill has been filed,” she said, adding that “it did make progress” when the Senate supported a version as an amendment to the 2022 economic development bill. That text, however, did not survive House-Senate negotiations on the bill.
“Maybe most importantly, so much has happened in the last year around the country — California has passed a bill, Colorado has passed a bill. Apple has in fact endorsed those bills passing. So there’s been a lot of movement in other states and around the country that I think is going to give our bill the momentum it needs to get over the finish line,” Domenitz said.