A few weeks ago Motherboard reported an internal Apple document that indicated the company could be shifting its stance on the right-to-repair movement. However, the multimedia publication group is now reporting that an Apple representative and lobbyist from CompTIA, a trade organization that represents big tech companies, has been privately meeting with legislators in California to encourage them to kill legislation that would make it easier for consumers to repair their electronics.
Motherboard names two sources from the California State Assembly who have confirmed that the lobbyists have met with members of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, which is set to hold a hearing on a right-to-repair bill within the next week. The sources claim that the lobbyists brought a iPhone to the meetings and showed lawmakers and their legislative aids the internal components of the phone. The lobbyists then provided information regarding the repair process for the device and informed lawmakers that due to the possibility of puncturing the lithium-ion battery, consumers run the risk of harming themselves should they opt to self-repair the device.
The argument is similar to the one made publicly by Apple executive Lisa Jackson in 2017 at TechCrunch Disrupt, when she said the iPhone is “too complex” for normal people to repair them.
Apple has been known to lobby against the right-to-repair movement. Back in 2017, New York State records showed that the company hired a lobbyist to push against the issue in that state, and an Apple lobbyist in Nebraska told a lawmaker that passing a right-to-repair bill would turn the state into a “Mecca for bad actors,” criminals, and hackers. Motherboard points out that rather than lobbying on its own behalf, the company has relied on CompTIA, an organization funded by tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung, to testify against the legislation at hearings and meet with lawmakers.
Experts say Apple’s and CompTIA’s warning are far overblown. There are thousands of people with no special or Apple-certified training, who regularly replace iPhone batteries or cracked screens. The issue is that many of these companies operate in a grey area because they are forced to purchase replacement parts from third parties in Shenzhen, China, because Apple does not sell the parts to independent companies that are not a part of the Apple Authorized Service Provider Program, which limits the types of repairs they are allowed to do and requires companies to pay Apple a fee to join.
“To suggest that there are safety and security concerns with spare parts and manuals is just patently absurd,” Nathan Proctor, director of consumer rights group U.S. PIRG’s right to repair campaign told Motherboard in a phone call. “We know that all across the country, millions of people are doing this for themselves. Millions more are taking devices to independent repair technicians.”
Apple has not directly or publicly discussed repair operations in the past year, however Motherboard reported in March that Apple quietly approached independent repair companies with a new program called “Apple Genuine Parts Repair,” which would allow a select few companies to purchase repair parts from Apple with few restrictions. The slides associated with the program, obtained by Motherboard, suggest that Apple could comply with right-to-repair legislation without much burden.
So far, Apple has not responded to a request for comments inquired by Motherboard. A CompTIA representative told Motherboard in an email that it “[does not] have any additional information to provide at this time.”