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Why do users (not) repair their devices? A study of the predictors of repair practices

Academic literature on circular economy describes repair as an important strategy to prolong the lifetime of products. However, repair is often analyzed in terms of business models or product designs and tend to underestimate the role of consumer practices and routines. The paper adds to the growing body of consumer research on repair with a particular focus on the relation between past repair behaviour, product usetimes and different product types. Based on previous research and a conceptual perspective on repair as a social practice, the paper describes a survey-based, quantitative analysis of the role of social and material settings, meanings and competences for the likelihood of repairing an object (either DIY or by repair services).

The authors further explore the pertinence of repair for prolonging product usetimes compared to other product related practices like replacements. A model is proposed that predicts patterns of 1) how agency- and setting-related aspects are predicting repair and 2) how product related practices predict product usetimes for two different consumer goods (washing machines and smartphones). Both models were implemented and tested by structural equation modelling (SEM) with latent variables, using R lavaan.

The tests revealed among others that the behavioural and financial costs for repair are perceived as high and social and material settings are more likely to impede than to enable repair. The study also found that novelty seeking is an important predictor for non-repair and short product usetimes, but that there are significant differences between smartphones and washing machines. Based on the results the authors discuss further research and policy strategies to understand and change the current culture of non-repair.