Broken iPhone on the ground

Apple lobbies against ‘right to repair’ devices

Image credit: Dreamstime

Apple and other tech giants have been lobbying against state legislation in New York aiming to make it easier for consumers to fix their iPhones and other devices.

The Fair Repair Act would require companies producing phones, tablets, printers, farming equipment and other devices to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public.  This would make it possible for third parties to repair broken electronics using recycled parts from old devices, extending the lifetime of products and reducing e-waste.

The bill would also prohibit ‘software locks’ that restrict repairs, and would require some companies to make repair guides publicly available.

As the cost of repairing broken iPhones and iPads at official Apple stores is so high, consumers are encouraged to buy new products rather than repair old ones. This has been blamed for generating extra e-waste. Apple has said that it is opposed to third parties repairing its devices as that could enable other companies to learn its trade secrets, as well as making it harder to keep products secure for consumers.

Apple, Verizon, Toyota, Lexmark, Caterpillar, Asurion and Medtronic collectively spent $366,634 between January and April this year fighting the legislation in New York alone. Apple lobbied two other bills in New York State during the period, and lobbied against similar legislation in 2015 and 2016. The Consumer Technology Association, which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers, is also lobbying against the Fair Repair Bill.

In contrast, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition – a collection of independent repair shops with small employee numbers, and the only group lobbying for the legislation – has spent just $5,042 on lobbying efforts.

Other state legislatures, including those of Massachusetts and Illinois, are proposing similar bills. While Apple and other tech giants are suspected of opposing the legislation in other states, only New York’s lobbying disclosure laws make their spending transparent.

Legislators in Nebraska have shelved similar legislation after lobbying pressure from companies including Apple. Nebraskan farmers have been vocal in supporting the bill, which would allow them to diagnose and fix faults in their equipment with tools and manuals currently kept secret by manufacturers.

State Senator Lydia Brasch reported having been lobbied by an Apple representative, who, according to BuzzFeed News, told her that the legislation would turn the state into a “Mecca for bad actors” if the legislation passed, and that Apple would stop opposing the legislation if phones were exempted from the legislation.

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