Apple Fights Bill That Could Make Fixing iPhone Easier, Cheaper

Image courtesy of Michael Gil

When iPhones first came on the market, customers could only get their devices fixed at an actual Apple store. Now that the phones have become ubiquitous, phone repair store have popped up on nearly every block and in every mall, providing owners with a plethora of options and prices when it comes to seeking repairs for their devices. But a new report shows that Apple and other tech manufacturers and organizations are fighting against these choices, pushing to eliminate state legislation that aims to make it easier for anyone to repair electronics. 

Motherboard reports that a number of tech giants including Apple, Verizon, medical device company Medtronic, machinery company Caterpillar, and others, have begun lobbying against a proposed New York state bill that would require manufacturers to provide parts and guides for the independent repair of devices.

According to New York State’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the companies have spent more than $366,000 lobbying against the Fair Repair Act [PDF] in the five months since it was introduced.

A lobbying report from Roffe Group, the company contracted by Apple to conduct lobbying on the tech giant’s behalf, shows it spent $18,000 in March and April on lobbying efforts related to three New York measures including the so-called “right to repair” bill (S618A).

Conversely, the lobbying filings cited by Motherboard show that just one group – the Digital Right to Repair Coalition, composed of independent repair shops – has lobbied for the legislation, spending about $5,000.

The New York bill, which was introduced in January, would require electronic manufacturers to provide diagnostic and repair information — such as tools, replacement parts, and repair guides — to outside companies or individuals who want to carry out their own device repairs.

Additionally, the Fair Repair Act would ban manufacturers from creating software locks, or otherwise restricting companies or individuals from fixing devices.

Apple was accused of such an incident earlier this year by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The agency claimed that Apple used the infamous “Error 53” issue in software updates that rendered devices useless after owners had common repair work done by an unauthorized service provide.

According to the agency’s allegations, once the repair work was completed and a service provider tried to update or restore the software to the device, the error message appeared, locking down the phone.

Motherboard notes that Apple and other tech companies have previously been rumored to have lobbied against similar right to repair legislation in other states.

Although the companies haven’t admitted to lobbying against such legislation, they have previously expressed concern that allowing just anyone to repair devices puts customers at risk. In one instance, Motherboard reports an Apple lobbyist told a Nebraska state legislator that if a right to repair bill was passed, residents would be the target of bad actors.

Consumerist has reached out to Apple for comment on the reported lobbying. We’ll update this post when we hear back.