from the get-out-ahead-of-this dept
For years we’ve noted how both Apple and John Deere have become the face of the kind of obnoxious repair restrictions that have fueled the growing “right to repair” movement. Apple has long been criticized for bullying independent repair shop owners, attempting to monopolize repair, and generally being terrible from an environmental standpoint when it comes to waste and repair. John Deere has been equally criticized for obnoxious DRM and draconian repair policies that force many rural tractor owners to spend thousands of dollars, and sometimes drive thousands of miles, just to get essential agricultural equipment repaired.
US PIRG is now attempting to pressure both companies via their investors, and alongside a “socially responsible mutual fund company,” Green Century Funds, has filed shareholder resolutions with both Apple and John Deere asking them to account for ?anti-competitive repair policies.” The mutual fund argues that Apple is harming the company’s brand value by insisting it’s socially responsible, then routinely embracing policies that, well, aren’t:
“Investors are extremely concerned about Apple?s disingenuous combination of promoting environmental sustainability while inhibiting product repair,? said Green Century President Leslie Samuelrich. ?The company risks losing its reputation as a climate leader if it does not cease its anti-repair practices.”
Despite growing its independent repair network, Apple continues to earn criticism not only for denying consumers and independent repair shops access to repair materials but also designing products in such a way that hinders repair. Equally troubling, the company has doubled down on this approach by lobbying extensively against Right to Repair laws, which would require electronics manufacturers to provide access to parts and service information to consumers.”
In a statement of its own, US PIRG suggested that improving both companies’ repair policies just made decent business sense:
“Providing more freedom to repair products saves money and cuts waste. It?s common sense. But manufacturers like Deere and Apple commonly refuse to provide the software, parts or information needed to do certain repairs. It?s time for all manufacturers to stop fighting against opening up repair choices and realize that the call for reform isn?t going away. The wise thing to do is to get in front of pending regulatory changes. So far, however, both companies have attempted to appease repair advocates with half measures — and even their own shareholders appear to see through those schemes. Just let us fix our stuff.”
It’s not likely this pressure alone is likely to work. Most investors care little about the broader impact of bad business policies if said policies are providing meaningful quarter over quarter returns. And on the shorter term, being an obnoxious bully in a bid to monopolize repair over your own products potentially generates more money. But the more both companies engage in obnoxious anti-repair behaviors, the louder opposition grows, resulting in a massive push for some sort of state or federal legislation forcing them to do the right thing.
For now, Apple and John Deere lobbyists have managed to stall any legislative reform, but the more they persist in this kind of behavior, and the more attention the right to repair movement gets, the more difficult that’s going to be. As such there’s an argument to be made that both companies could do wonders for their brands, the environment, markets, and consumer welfare by getting out ahead of calls for reform, before they’re forced to.