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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:03pm

    Rather unsurprising

    Apple for the last couple decades has been against people repairing their apple devices. They want period to buy their service policies, and after 2 years buy a new product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:09pm

    If I'm not allowed to repair it, they should have to give me a refund or a brand new one for free when it breaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:10pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:11pm

    "For a company that likes to portray itself as serving its users better than its rivals"

    Well, talk about setting yourself a low bar!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:13pm

    >plans to say that consumers who repair their own phones could cause lithium batteries to catch fire.

    And people who drive their own vehicles can kill other people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:13pm

    Apple anti-repair for ages

    Apple has been anti-repair for ages.. The classic Mac cases were glued shut.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymoose, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:14pm

    If it's all about safety, maybe there's a case to be made for negligence. Why on earth are they insisting on using a power source that they know explodes into flames when brought in contact with a common material like 'air'?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:14pm

    Saying you have a right to repair something you own is a no-brainer.
    Saying a manufacturer must provide you with the instructions and parts to do so is a bridge too far, for me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:26pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 3:24pm

        Re: Re:

        If these car companies were not getting welfare from the government other car companies that made a better product would exist... a huuuge value add would be having replacement parts available... but people would rather smug their own farts over higher false MPG and blindly follow the stat[e]s quo

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        freedomfan (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 12:47am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Michael, 16 Feb 2017 @ 5:13am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            freedomfan (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 11:37am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        SirWired (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 6:07am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 2:34pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 16 Feb 2017 @ 3:26am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Chris (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 10:07am

        Re: Re:

        You seem to be unable to distinguish between "I think XYZ is a good thing" and "The government should force companies/people to do XYZ".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 2:49pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You seem to be unable to distinguish between "I think XYZ is a good thing" and "The government should force companies/people to do XYZ".

          You seem to be unable to recognize that David said no such thing as "The government should force companies/people to do XYZ".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Chris (profile), 21 Feb 2017 @ 7:09am

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:22pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Boojum (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:32pm

    3rd party parts

    If I own a ford focus then I have the option of buying Ford parts or of buying 3rd party parts. The Cell Phones we have should be handled the same way. If Apple refuses to sell parts to fix Apple devices, then invalidate their patents on those parts and allow 3rd parties to make and sell them to us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:53pm

      Re: 3rd party parts

      It's worse than that. They're not just refusing to sell parts; it's illegal to get and use 3rd party parts because it's in violation of the DMCA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:36pm

    This issue has very little do to with the DRM issue, however. It's not about saying that it should or should not be illegal to fix your device, it's about an affirmative obligation to provide parts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:49pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Paul, 15 Feb 2017 @ 8:08pm

        Re: Re:

        Ink jet Printer often get sued for the chips, but in some parts of the world they are still winning on the DRM aspect (only a quick search).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    kP (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 12:48pm

    Calling B.S.

    Couldn't the right to repair be used to PREVENT a phone from catching fire, too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Penny, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:20pm

    Follow the $

    Greed. Apple is, was, and will be greedy. It is their corporare culture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:42pm

    Thank you Apple !!

    Thanks Apple for fighting to prevent me from repairing my NON-APPLE products! That's just what I always wanted. I want all my non-Apple products to be non-openable sealed bricks just like Apple products are. Oh, and overpriced too, assuming Apple hasn't patented that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 15 Feb 2017 @ 1:51pm

    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 shopvac.com 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 2:52pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jay Lahto (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 3:03pm

    I'd hate to defend Apple (bleh) so I'm not going to; their stuff is consistently some of the most difficult hardware to repair and one of the few that keeps me buying new tools to be able to work on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 15 Feb 2017 @ 3:57pm

    If Apple is so worried about authorized repairs damaging the battery, here's a radical idea: Make the damn things removable!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      Removable battery's take up more space, you have issues with the cover falling off. I would laugh at Samsung drop test for example as even a low drop the battery would go flying out of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 2:50pm

        Re: Re:

        I would laugh at Samsung drop test for example as even a low drop the battery would go flying out of it.

        That would all depend on the design, now wouldn't it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2017 @ 5:43pm

    This is hardly unusual. A person repairing their device is a person who is not buying a new device. Why would companies want to do that? The only way this is going to happen is through legislation... preferably the type that isn't corrupted [cough] I mean lobbied [cough] against.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RRob, 15 Feb 2017 @ 7:43pm

    Real data?

    Surely the stats are out there - who has caused more dangerous lithium battery fires, manufacturers or self repair people?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Feb 2017 @ 9:35pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 15 Feb 2017 @ 11:10pm

    Hmmm

    I'm using win 10 on my 2012 macbook, I have no sound but my xbox mini controller works just fine, Older games run fine on the intel 2.4 core Duo. The video works but it's not awesome. Win 10 is not supported, at all....

    I wonder if I'm breaking the law....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 3:23am

    Apple

    You should realise that you don't get to own Apple products.

    What you pay for is access to Steve Jobs' playroom (even after his demise) and to be allowed to play with one of his toys.

    You don't own it - and if you don't play nice or you break something then his mum will throw you out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 3:35am

    Safety

    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.

    If that is possible it should not be legal to sell the phone in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Almost Anonymous (profile), 16 Feb 2017 @ 6:04am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2017 @ 7:38am

    2 prices

    sell the non-repairables at a lower price
    sell the repairables at a higher
    that'll fix 'em

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr. Black, 16 Feb 2017 @ 8:25am

    Really?

    This is why I don't buy any of the newer Apple products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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