27 'Right To Repair' Laws Proposed This Year. Giants Like Apple Have Ensured None Have Passed So Far.
from the this-isn't-going-away dept
We’ve repeatedly noted how the “right to repair” movement has been gaining a full head of steam as consumers, independent repair shops, schools, farmers, and countless others grow tired of corporations’ attempts to monopolize repair. Whether it’s Sony and Microsoft creating repair monopolies for their game consoles, Apple bullying independent repair shops, or John Deere making it a costly hassle just to fix a tractor, the more companies restrict access to cheap repair, parts, tools, and documentation, the more this movement seems to grow. Especially in the COVID era where the problem has also hindered health care.
Bloomberg notes that 27 states have considered right to repair legislation so far this year, making access to essential tools and less expensive repair options a legal right. But corporations have shot down all of them so far, in part thanks to a misleading, coordinated lobbying campaign falsely claiming that reform on this front poses dramatic privacy and security harms:
“One reason these legislative efforts have failed is the opposition, which happens to sell boatloads of new devices every year. Microsoft?s top lawyer advocated against a repair bill in its home state. Lobbyists for Google and Amazon.com Inc. swooped into Colorado this year to help quash a proposal. Trade groups representing Apple Inc. successfully buried a version in Nevada. Telecoms, home appliance firms and medical companies also opposed the measures, but few have the lobbying muscle and cash of these technology giants. While tech companies face high-profile scrutiny in Washington, they quietly wield power in statehouses to shape public policy and stamp out unwelcome laws.”
Bloomberg doesn’t even get into many of the sleazier efforts on this front, like the auto industry’s false claims that right to repair reform would be of great benefit to stalkers and sexual predators. Or Apple’s false claim that giving consumers more rights over things they own would turn states into dangerous meccas for hackers. Despite the fact the FTC recently released a report making it clear the vast majority of these claims aren’t substantiated, the scare mongering has been extremely effective at befuddling confused or financially-conflicted lawmakers.
The existing broken, wasteful system is hugely lucrative for major companies, even if it harms the planet, annoys countless consumers, and makes everyday life more expensive for school districts:
“Around 10 to 15% of a district?s devices end up needing repairs during a typical school year, according to Millman. One Long Island district he works with has over 13,000 iPads in circulation. He estimates that they have around $130,000 a year in repair costs. If the district had to replace all the broken iPads, rather than fix them, that cost jumps up a quarter of a million dollars.
?That?s why Apple doesn?t answer my emails,? Millman said. ?For them, it?s just dollars and cents. They don?t think about the person on the other side of the iPad.”
It’s tough to pass reform when you’ve got a vast coalition of extremely wealthy and powerful corporations all working in concert to fight it (see: the long uphill climb on passing even a very basic US privacy law). But with right to repair, there’s a massive, bipartisan coalition of folks whose ranks only grow bigger the more these companies press their luck.