Repairability: uneven indices

Finding 1: an index without variability is not worth much

For his new case, the French media Que Choisir dismantled and analyzed eight laptops offered in France, and gave them a repairability rating out of 20. The biggest surprise of the investigation is not the fact that Dell dominates the market. Ranking or that Apple comes last, but rather the difference between Que Choisir’s ratings and the official device repairability index.

Since January 1, 2021, certain products sold in France (window washers, mobile phones, laptops, televisions and electric lawn mowers, for now) are accompanied by a repairability index, registered by manufacturers based on criteria objectives, such as the presence of documentation and the type of tools required to disassemble the product.

While computers dismantled by Que Choisir score from 0.8 to 15/20, the official repairability index ranks them from 5.6 to 8/10 (and not even in the same order). For the consumer buying a new device, an index that accentuates the differences, such as Que Choisir’s, is more effective at first glance.

Outcome 2: good intentions can damage the index

Certain criteria in the development of indices are based on good intentions, but can be detrimental to their effectiveness.

Dell, for example, is the only brand that makes technical documentation in French available to the general public, which has allowed it to accumulate more points than the others. A French manual is certainly preferable to an English manual, but is it a good yardstick for comparing the repairability of two products? For a bilingual consumer, the answer is no.

The same is true of the tools needed to open computers, another factor often taken into account by clue makers. Common screws are obviously preferable to proprietary screws, such as those found on Apple computers.

But while the problem can be circumvented by purchasing a $ 5 specialty screwdriver, its actual impact on repairability is virtually non-existent.

Finding 3: Spare parts are the nerve of the war

It doesn’t matter how easy an electronic device is to open if replacement parts cannot be found. This is often the trickiest part of the process, depending on what to choose.

Some manufacturers have their own sites to sell parts, but not all are offered. Third-party vendors often offer more options, but their performance can sometimes be lower than original parts (this is especially the case with batteries and displays, depending on what to choose).

The existence of spare parts should be a significant factor in the development of any repairability index.

Finding 4: Target audience must be identified

When analyzing the Que Choisir file, we realize that the indexes often try to satisfy several needs at the same time, that is, to evaluate the repair capacity for consumers, to evaluate the repair capacity for the repairmen and to develop the offer of the manufacturers.

Sometimes certain criteria meet all three (such as the price of replacement parts compared to new devices). But it’s not always like this. The fact that removing the screen from a MacBook Pro requires a suction cup is, for example, inconvenient for consumers, but not for repairmen.

To take the example of the documentation in French, this is a criterion that can encourage manufacturers to improve to earn some points in the index, but that in no way changes the possibility of it being repaired or not. specialized center.

To be most effective, the index must have a clear intent. This is also the case with iFixit, an American website that publishes guides for self-healing electronic devices: it explicitly targets regular users who have no experience in repairs.

The issue of repairability rates is likely to gain importance in the coming months and years in Quebec, with the forthcoming modernization of the Consumer Protection Law.

Such an index could be a simple tool to configure, which would have a concrete impact on Quebecers. But it still has to be well designed.

>> Also read: Samsung simplifies the repair of your devices and Repair instead of throwing them: the trend intensifies in Quebec


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