Apple Wants To Stop You Fixing Your iPhone And iPad: Source Says It Will Testify Against 'Right To Repair' Legislation

from the wrong-side-of-history dept

Techdirt has been covering the fight for a “Right to Repair” for a long time — Mike first wrote about it in 2009. Even though the idea seems a no-brainer — you bought it, why shouldn’t you be able to repair it? — progress has been extremely slow, as successive Techdirt articles have chronicled. One of the most important developments is a number of “Right to Repair” bills that are being considered by various state legislatures. These typically require electronics manufacturers to make service manuals available to the public, and to sell repair parts. The hope is that if even one or two of these are passed, manufacturers will find it simpler to comply nationally. However, an article on Motherboard suggests that the “Right to Repair” movement has a rather surprising enemy. Here’s what an unnamed source told the publication:

an Apple representative, staffer, or lobbyist will testify against the bill at a hearing in Lincoln on March 9. AT&T will also argue against the bill, the source said. The source told me that at least one of the companies plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire.

It’s all about safety, you see, and definitely not about trying to push the public to buy new models when the old ones break. The Motherboard story suggesting Apple will try to derail the “Right to Repair” bill in Nebraska is plausible, because the company did exactly the same in two states last year, as the Huffington Post reported. It seems those were not isolated incidents, but part of a long-running official Apple policy against the “Right to Repair” idea.

For a company that likes to portray itself as serving its users better than its rivals, this is shabby behavior. It not only forces people to spend money unnecessarily, it is harmful for the environment. Discarding old models is likely to lead to more toxic landfill, even though Apple says that it tries to recycle as much as possible. It’s sad to see an otherwise innovative player lining up with the dinosaurs on the wrong side of history for this issue.

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Comments on “Apple Wants To Stop You Fixing Your iPhone And iPad: Source Says It Will Testify Against 'Right To Repair' Legislation”

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Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

This should be a no-brainer–if it’s your property, it’s your property, period–but in a world in which DRM is legally protected, anything goes.

Again, the DMCA is the root from which all digital copyright abuse springs in modern times, and we need to recognize this.

When a weed grows in your garden, you can cut it off above ground, and then deal with it when it grows back again and again and again… or you can uproot it and then you’re done with it. If we want to make any real progress pushing back against copyright abuse, we need to uproot it by repealing and reversing the abusive DMCA that allows for takedowns on accusation alone and DRM that tramples on fundamental property rights. Otherwise, people will just continue to build upon it further.

afn29129 (profile) says:

Re: Apple anti-repair for ages, 2nd

A Mac case cracker tool from the day.

I did computer and consumer electronics repair back then….
1980’s and 90’s.

Xerox did something similar in the 90’s, by refusing to sell any more repair parts to any competing businesses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Really? Laws that enforce this very behavior is the ONLY thing that keeps you from having to go to a dealership to get your vehicle repaired. So before you go all libertarian-extreme, you might want to think about your pocketbook when you have to pay several times what the repair would actually cost because Toyota/Ford/GM/etc have a complete monopoly on repairing your vehicle ONLY at an “authorized dealership” and having enforced obsolescence on cars that now cost as much as many houses do every 2-3 years.

Part of those laws require the manufacturers to make available the computer diagnostic codes for the computers that run everything on your car these days. Without requiring the release of that information 3rd party repair shops would no longer exist, because nearly all repairs beyond fixing a “simple” dent require some interaction with the computer at a diagnostic level.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is a thread where most people are very much in favor of being able to buy parts to repair or pay someone else to repair (somewhat) expensive consumer devices. Given that, I’m not sure it’s really "libertarian extreme" to think that there is a market for repairable gear repairs services and that those who try and sell such gear/services will find customers.

For big ticket items like cars, where being able to repair components can extend the usable life of the item for decades, it’s worth it. I think auto manufacturers who tried to sell cars that no one could fix would find the many customers veering toward other cars.

However, making things repairable often raises the price of those things substantially. That’s just a manufacturing reality, especially when a primary selling point of many of these devices is how light and compact they are. Ask any engineer about the trade-offs in manufacturing with permanent joining techniques (welds, epoxies, etc.) versus non-permanent ones (screws, clips, etc.). As I say, depending on the product, it can be worth it. But, that isn’t true of every product.

In addition, if this extends to being forced to provide spare parts (and presumably a distribution chain for them), I would agree with Chris that this is going too far. If someone wants to go into the business of repairing iPhones, good on them. If they insist the government force Apple to make available everything to needed to be in the iPhone repair business, then they can take a hike.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“if this extends to being forced to provide spare parts (and presumably a distribution chain for them), I would agree with Chris that this is going too far”

I would agree if the companies that make the devices did not have government granted monopolies preventing others from manufacturing spare parts. There needs to be some kind of trade-off. If Apple does not want to manufacture spare batteries for the iPhone, they should be barred from enforcing patent control on others and preventing them from manufacturing batteries.

As-is, the laws not only do not require them to make it possible for repairs to be made, but also allow them to actively bar others from doing so.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I would agree if the companies that make the devices did not have government granted monopolies preventing others from manufacturing spare parts.

You may have a point here, but one has to wonder how far to go down that road. The goal of various patent protections (which I agree are government-granted monopolies) is to incentivize (via profit) for a limited time the development of novel goods. If the state starts attaching strings to that, where does it stop? As one example of many, if this rationale becomes the norm for new mandates, how long until the same reasoning is used to force Apple (and everyone else) to add backdoors to their encryption? Years? Months? Either way, it’s a matter of when and not if it will happen.

In addition, it’s easy to talk about using patents as the hook for other mandates when the target is a giant corporation like Apple. But, there are plenty of patent applicants who are little guys hoping a patent will let them to get a product to market before some giant who can manufacture it cheaper and market it better grabs the idea. Let’s be 100% clear: If patents (and any IP) become to the hook to attach other mandates to something, then it is inevitable that regulatory capture will soon become prominent and the big boys and their lobbyists will ensure that the mandates favor them over potential competition. If your great idea for a new widget comes with all sorts of other mandates, many of which are intended to make it harder for you to compete with the International Widget Corporation, there is no doubt that many inventors will decide not to bother.

Like many similar ideas well-intended regulations to help consumers, the actual outcome is likely to be very different than the intent.

SirWired (profile) says:

Re: Re: There is no car "right to repair" law

Errr… There is no “right to repair” law for cars. There is the Magnuson-Moss warranty act, which gives you permission to have non-warranty maint./repair done elsewhere, and it won’t void your warranty, but that’s it. Automakers are required to provide neither instructions nor parts to outside parties. (The OBD system is required to use some standard codes (mainly dealing with emissions, and things that could effect them), but nothing beyond that.)

Now, in practice, most automakers DO provide repair instructions to outside parties, and will sell parts to anybody, because few car owners would put up with dealer-only maintenance, but they are not required to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is kind of a hypocricy:

Apple does not want to give people the right to repair.
Apple argues that it is dangerous to repair.

Apple wants you to repair their phones
Apple argues that any parts and instructions from other providers are dangerous.

It seems like a win/win for Apple regardless, but I guess they are counting on consumers changing phones on a monthly basis and thus doesn’t want a used goods market for phones, which could slow the sale of new phones.

David says:

Re: Re:

Open any consumer electronics from about the 30s to the 80s. TV set, tape deck, record player, radio, monitor… If the circuit diagram was not included in the instruction manual coming with the part, it was be glued or placed inside of the device, or put there in a satchel.

Without a circuit diagram suitable for maintenance and/or repair, electronic goods were not allowed to be imported into the U.S.

This is the standard we should be striving for for both hard- and software (the latter is the GPL approach: legally acquiring the binaries comes with the right to get access to the source code at no extra cost).

Now it is has become a bridge too far. 4 decades of brain washing and/or lobbying does that.

Chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Me: "The government forcing companies to provide design diagrams and hardware is a bridge too far."

David: "I can’t believe you think the government forcing companies to provide design diagrams and hardware is a bridge too far. You must be brainwashed."

You: "He never said the government should force people to do anything!"

Try to keep up, here.

Anonymous Coward says:

However, an article on Motherboard suggests that the "Right to Repair" movement has a rather surprising enemy.

There’s nothing surprising given the later statement:

The Motherboard story suggesting Apple will try to derail the "Right to Repair" bill in Nebraska is plausible, because the company did exactly the same in two states last year

And it should never have been surprising. People have been criticizing their non-removable batteries etc. for years. Look at the ifixit repairability scores.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately it has a lot to do with DRM. Manufacturers can add DRM – even easy to break DRM – to a device, just to make it illegal to repair.

This has been done to stop third-party consumables like inkjet cartridges and coffee maker pods. It can be done for planned obsolescence to guarantee future sales of future models. It can be done to keep your repair shops producing revenue.

Christenson says:

For anyone testifying in Lincoln at the hearing...

I wish I could send you my damaged and partially re-furbished vacuum cleaner head, (I filed down a high commutator segment on the motor) but unfortunately was awesome and sent me a new one so it was given away as scrap metal. Could I have fixed it in a dangerous way? Sure — there’s a safety fuse of some sort in there that would be easy to omit.

This battery lock-in is insane.

Whenever something is repaired, risks are taken…by whomever repairs it, by whomever is entrusted to repair it. Car mechanics have liability insurance. Safety is a smokescreen…Apple is unhappy I can take my cracked screen down to Staples and get it fixed! It’s just not the Apple way.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think Apple going with the whole exploding battery thing is making this sound a little dumb on Apple’s part.

I just installed a new TouchID button in a friends iPhone 5S. The part was about $10. Of course the TouchID no longer works as that is secured with the Secure Enclave of the iPhone. But the button at least works now and so you can just use it as a iPhone that doesn’t have TouchID.

Some people are hard on their phones and break them left and right. My iPhone 4 I had for over 4 years and then sold it to T-Mobile for $202. I’m not on the 3rd year of my iPhone 6. If you’re hard on your phones, maybe put it into a good case. Not a crappy thin shell that offers very little protection.

If you want to fix your phones, great, but APple shouldn’t be forced to supply parts themsevles, let alone anything having to do with security. As in no way in hell allowing 3rd partys to match a touchID sensor to a phone. Then you end up with security issues. These touchID buttons are not Apple’s. I’ve gotten 2 of them and there’s some minor differences. Same goes with screen’s, they’re 3rd party, cheaper. I don’t have a problem with this. Go ahead at swap them. None of this is going to change if this rules doesn’t pass.

If you’re hard on your phones, get the extended warranty. I’m not, so I don’t waste my money.

Apple is doing some dumb things. using Exploding battery’s on this issue which I’ve replaced in the past also with no problem, and jumping on the whole Fake News bandwagon. I’m not sure what’s going on with Apple lately.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Their business model counts on you not being able to repair your items.
If you can keep your older phone working well, you won’t immediately upgrade.
If you can fix it you won’t pay them the fee for a refurbished phone.
If you could fix it, why would you pay them for a service contract?

States should start pushing 2 bills simultaneously
– Right to Repair
– Right to Free Repairs

Companies enjoy maintaining control over what you can do with the things you purchase, yet if something goes wrong it is your problem & they have no responsibility. We need to stop that model of abuse.

They build the devices to be as hostile as possible to being repaired to maintain profits from being the only ones who can fix them. Imagine if they came with user replaceable batteries like so many other phones, many complaints are about the batteries giving up. The only offical option is to pay a large fee to get a replacement phone rather than just replacing the bad part. You can buy aftermarket batteries now, but many people aren’t willing to fight against needing special screwdriver tips & glue.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Safety

I’ll play Devil’s Advocate. Disclaimer: I don’t like Apple, and I don’t use their products.

It is more than just possible. Google or checkout YouTube for punctured lithium battery videos. A tiny puncture in that battery will lead to a runaway reaction that looks like a special effects show. Their are a few non-reactive batteries being researched, but I don’t think any are in production yet.

Do I think people should be able to repair their own stuff? Absolutely. In fact, I’ll say that it should be regulated that any battery operated product over a certain threshold (say 200 dollars maybe?) must have replaceable batteries.

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