Combat Planned Obsolescence with Extended Warranties, Right to Repair
Are extended warranties worth it? When it comes to cars, the question is complicated by a multitude of options, prices and incentives. For other items such as gadgets and mobile phones, the choice is easier.
Some people need extended warranties than insurance. Nearly 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense with cash or a credit card charge to settle on their next bill, according to the Federal Reserve Board “Report on the Economic Wellbeing of US Households in 2020.”
For consumers who must choose between living without a refrigerator or increasing their monthly interest payments, an extended warranty can be crucial, even if the added cost of the warranty delays a purchase.
For others, purchasing an extended warranty can be a good deal.
“Like a dentist or doctor at an HMO, we charge a lot less for warranty work than for item repairs from someone who just calls us with no policy,” said Dean Stoli, the customer service representative for My Appliance Service, a large repair center in San Fernando Valley, which repairs appliances in homes throughout Ventura County.
Manufacturers factor this discount into the cost of a good extended warranty. They estimate the average cost for an average person to repair a device under warranty and generally charge enough to cover the cost. Because the manufacturer’s cost is lower than the cost to a consumer without a warranty, on average, the warranty is a good deal, Stoli said.
For non-warranty consumers it sometimes makes more sense to work with local workshops, even if those workshops are not authorized by the manufacturer. However, not all manufacturers make it easy to work with unauthorized workshops.
William Shifflet, the 28-year-old owner of Gizmo Wizard in Oak View, said some companies whose devices he serves seem intent on putting him out of business.
“With each new generation of iPhone, there are more booby traps, so you can end up damaging a phone if you’re not an expert,” Shifflet said. In contrast, he said that replacement parts for HP computers are “easy to buy and easy to deal with with HP.”
Consumers resist manufacturers who put wear parts into new products or stop making replacement parts for repairs.
A Change.org petition to the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls for a ban on printer cartridges that should be discarded rather than remanufactured.
“What was once a thriving circular economy for recycling and remanufacturing used printer cartridges in the early 2000s,” the petition reads, has since been “devastated and is currently in danger of extinction… due to the importation of cheap, non-reusable replacement parts.”
A related consumer movement is fighting to preserve the ability to repair yourself. In a victory for these proponents last year, the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to pass legislation that proponents call the “right to repair.” An FTC report inspired the vote “Nixing the Fix” accused some manufacturers of violating the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act by making false statements, such as B. “Opening this device will void the warranty.”
Consumers who made their case to the FTC were organized by the US nonprofit PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, and funded in part by companies like San Luis Obispo-based iFixit, which sells repair kits and manuals. Right to Repair advocates argue that consumers deserve access to tools, parts, documentation and software needed to make repairs.
Aside from saving consumers money, repairing saves resources otherwise needed to manufacture new products. Repairs can benefit the local economy by using local workers to restore used items, rather than sending money abroad to purchase internationally produced goods.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at (805) 658-4312 or [email protected]