Fix Your Broken Appliance? From Harlem To Hawaii, You Can Forget About It!

February 6, 2023

Was the same hammer that fell on Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse for failing to adhere to the new “right to repair” requirement just the first of many?

A new study found that 86% of the appliance manufacturers surveyed keep repair manuals under wraps and do not share repair manuals with users. 

That’s an egregious mistake on the part of manufacturers, too. Appliance repair manuals, like car repair manuals, are one of the five key requirements of the right to repair.

The investigation, submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by PIRG, iFixit, and, surveyed 50 appliance makers, 37 appliance technicians, and industry experts. It also reviewed a wide range of academic research on the topic of appliance repair.

“People are fed up. It shouldn’t be so hard to access a repair manual. We want dishwashers and refrigerators that are easy to fix and last a long time.” 

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“The manufacturers that make our home appliances have the incentive to either monopolize repair or discourage it so that their customers are forced to buy new products,” said Nathan Proctor, senior director of PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. “People are fed up. It shouldn’t be so hard to access a repair manual. We want dishwashers and refrigerators that are easy to fix and last a long time.” 

Consumers and service techs are both left out in the cold

Believe it or not, even appliance repair professionals had a hard time accessing the information necessary to repair an item with 89% of them reporting having trouble finding service manuals. Making things even more bothersome, PIRG said that technicians had to fork out an unheard-of amount of money for software that’s sometimes required to fix appliances. GE, for example, charges $919 per year for software tools, which effectively prices out “do-it-yourself” repair and drives up repair costs. 

A consumer who wants to play Mr. Fix-It? Forget about it.

“Consumers who want to fix their own stuff are completely out of luck. Appliance repair is in a dismal state, and the FTC has an opportunity to make repair more accessible and affordable for everyone,” said Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of Sustainability at iFixit.

Ok, FTC, the rest is up to you

The FTC always seems to come through, but the surveyors think that this is something that needs to move to the agency’s front burner. While the FTC did make a promise to enforce right to repair, the report suggests that it can do more.

“The FTC would do well to include access to repair information directly on the EnergyGuide label, through QR codes, URLs, or both. Wider public access to appliance repair information would boost the feasibility of do-it-yourself repair, increase competition in the repair market, and ultimately benefit both the environment and consumers’ wallets,” was the group’s recommendation.

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