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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: lobbying, ownership, right to repair
Companies: apple


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • identicon
    bobob, 26 May 2021 @ 6:43am

    This kind of shit is very frustrating. Although it's not much consolence, people are going to do this shit in spite of what apple, john deere or anyone else does to stop them. Unfortunately, before those companies wise up, there has to be some collateral damage to their bottom line from the fallout of their shortsighted attempts to monetize anything and everything.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 7:19am

    Its apple's platform, they should be able to do whatever they want with it.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 7:37am

      Re:

      If I’m able to throw their platform off a bridge then I should be able to put their platform back together.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 26 May 2021 @ 7:38am

      You seem to dishonestly and intentionally conflate Apple's services with the inability for a person to repair a phone they own. Also, the corollary to your argument is that if someone owns an iPhone for example, why can't they do whatever they want with it?

      TL;DR: Your argument is stupid on many levels.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 8:58am

      Re:

      And here I thought I was buying my phone. Strange that the "rental agreement" involves a lump sum payment and zero responsibility on the part of Apple.

      Or are you claiming that Apple somehow still owns the phones it sells?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 11:40am

      Re:

      So you'd have no problem with buying a new car and the maker telling you that you can only use Sonoco gas? Been around to see how many gas stations they have? Is pretty much the same thing.

      When you buy something it's yours unless it's a rental. This is the same fight the public had with car codes. Makers claimed the codes to tell what was wrong with the car were trade secrets and would not be released. This near put shade tree mechanics out of business. Only ones that could tell what was wrong with the car, were the expensive dealerships. Congress had to make a special law to remove the trade secret and make it publicly available.

      This is not the first time the right to repair or the ability to choose who do to those repairs on some product you've purchased has come up.

      Obviously either the starter of this comment is a troll or has a vested interest in going against public need.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 12:56pm

        Re: Re:

        So you'd have no problem with buying a new car and the maker telling you that you can only use Sonoco gas?

        That's a strange phrasing of a question. Perhaps the person you're replying to does have a problem with the behavior, and avoids buying Apple products for that reason—just as they'd avoid the hypothetical car. One could go so far as to say the proposed laws as undemocratic, because if 50% of people supported such a law, they wouldn't need one: they'd refuse to buy the products, and companies would have to choice but to cave to the pressure. Things would be different in a oligopoly, but locked-down phones are not (yet) an oligopoly.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Jun 2021 @ 8:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "One could go so far as to say the proposed laws as undemocratic, because if 50% of people supported such a law, they wouldn't need one: they'd refuse to buy the products, and companies would have to choice but to cave to the pressure. Things would be different in a oligopoly, but locked-down phones are not (yet) an oligopoly."

          It's never quite that easy. For the consumer buying a John Deere tractor he's just invested a sizeable chunk of money in a product he's been told is one of the best in the market. Only two years down the road does he encounter the issue that the product came with strings attached at which means he's stuck either forking out money for a whole new truck or see himself held in bondage to expensive repairs which keep cutting his margins.

          This sort of shit will never impact 50%. It might impact 10%. The rest of the american voters will all go "Fsck it, not my problem".

          And here's the issue with your argument - the same applies to women voting rights and the abolition of slavery. What you vote for and lobby for is for people to be in charge who will do the right thing. You will rarely, if ever, see any candidate riding a platform of, oh, getting rid of prohibition, legalizing pot, expanding voting rights or the right to repair.

          That's not how democracy works, and saying "It'll fix itself if 50% or more want it to be fixed" is a backhanded way of saying that the majority should tyrannize the minority.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 May 2021 @ 11:47am

      Hardware isn’t software.

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

    • icon
      emote (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 5:19am

      Re:

      So I don't buy Apple. But wait, then all the competitors do the same thing, and I'm forced to use certain apps on these platforms for other services. Now there's nothing I can do any more, I am powerless to do the things that I should be able to do. This is why we need laws.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 6:56am

      Re:

      As for "Its apple's platform, they should be able". Yes it is. Apple benefits from government action on their part, like patent protection (which solidifies their business and makes it dofficult for third party replacements to exist). As such the government has moral right to force them to comply with reasonable regulation. Right to repair might be one example.

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

    • identicon
      sem6x3ag, 27 May 2021 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      If I pay $1200.00 for an iPad, after four years, I should have a right as a consumer to buy a replacement battery instead of being force to upgrade the entire device. Buying another brand does not solve the problem because they like the game follow the leader.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 8:41am

    So Big Tech did to this law what Big Law does to Section 230.

    Glad you acknowledege the power to manipulate.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 9:09pm

      Re:

      That doesn't make any sense at all. First off there is no Big Law. Partners make enough of a premium and capital has a relatively minimal role in success. There are no consolidating forces there.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 9:26am

    as usual, Apple is leading the charge to stop people from actually owning what they've bought which should then come with the right to do whatever you want with it. that, obviously, includes repairing it, if necessary! the people at Apple, i am sure, dont call out someone to repair whatever it is that they own and has gone wrong. they give it a go themselves!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2021 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      It's worth remembering that Apple was founded by two hackers—criminal hackers, even, though they were never prosecuted for exploiting the phone company's network. It's unlikely that any non-hacker purchased an Apple I during its original run; the Apple II sold to the general public, but would never have been popular without the work of independent hackers.

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

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 26 May 2021 @ 9:38am

    How about an alternate headline

    27 'Right To Repair' Laws Proposed This Year. Crooked politicians accepting Bribes have ensured none have passed so far.

    Yes I know that technically most of the money is "campaign contributions" but if it quacks like a duck then...

    I have always found it odd that the companies attempting to bribe politicians are made out to be the primary bad guys.

    Yes it is sketchy behavior but in my opinion the crooked politicians accepting those bribes and selling out the people that voted them into office is much worse.

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

  • icon
    BernardoVerda (profile), 26 May 2021 @ 12:36pm

    I think Douglas Adams wrote about this...

    Though I don't recall exactly which edition() of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy* it was, that identified IFixit as one of the early Heroes of the Revolution.

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

  • icon
    Space5000 (profile), 31 May 2021 @ 10:09pm

    What Free Country?

    It's really ironic that this is a country that is supposed to be way more about basic rights, possibly than many other countries, and yet it ends up being nearly the complete opposite (obviously not completely) with many poor decisions and/or lack of specific decisions. Certain companies taking away a basic specific property right is one of those examples.

    It used to be better too: for example, we didn't ban many flavored beer, we moderated it. Today: We ban most flavored vaping because fear. If today was back then, we would of likely banned the rest of the flavored beer. So fear-based belief that fuels states acting like this so fast, especially on ridiculous fear just shows how much of a dangerous path we failed to stay away.

    Maybe I'm going a bit crazy, but I'm just infuriated how easy it is to lose even a simple right like this due to a simple fear-based argument made by rich companies so fast.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat

Warning: include(/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_discord_chat.inc): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_discord_chat.inc' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/pear:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/..') in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8

Warning: include(/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_jq_chat.inc): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_jq_chat.inc' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/pear:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/..') in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.