Pro-con: Apple Fighting 'Right to Repair' Legislation
Historically, I've been pretty rough on Apple. Much of my brooding stems from their insanely smart marketing and its ability to create some of the most passionate fanatics in the entire CE industry.
And I get it. The smooth metal laptops, commercials oozing with culture, space-age brick-and-mortar, and year-round keynote coverage is sufficient to satiate Apple enthusiasts and seduce even the most bitter of Android diehards.
However, their newest legal battle has them fighting a Nebraska court against "Right to Repair" legislation according to Motherboard. In layman's terms, it would force Apple (among other manufacturers) to make more resources available to consumers and independent repair shops. This includes replacement parts, diagnostic tools, and service manuals.
This isn't the first time lobbyists will fight against the legislation either. The New York statehouse killed a similar bill because of lobbyists from, but not limited to, Apple and IBM fought it every step of the way.
Doing my best to digest both sides of this, (mostly one side) here is my pro-con of the "Right to Repair."
Con: Maybe, Just Maybe, Apple Knows What They Are Doing
We, as consumers, aren't exactly mature enough to handle this sort of power. A lot of people will compare the language of this legislation to the freedom car mechanics have, which is entirely fair. However, I think the two aren't entirely comparable. In my opinion, the dangers are magnified significantly by the pure nature of how electronics, more specifically batteries, are engineered.
Apple says that opening up a lot of their products can pose a multitude of dangers. And with batteries exploding and shatter-prone glass, they may have a point. I'm not so sure any company wants to deal with the lawsuit that caused permanent heartache to a family because an inexperienced consumer has the right to tinker with a device.
Samsung's latest drama should be all the proof that these devices can be unstable without any external forces.
Looking beyond the scope of consumer safety, the Consumer Technology Association also has a strong argument. The Huffington Post reports that CTA thinks companies risk losing proprietary information by publishing everything that makes an iPhone, an iPhone.
“For example, the proposal could enable anyone posing as a repair shop to reverse engineer such a device to create counterfeit devices,” the CTA wrote in a statement of opposition to Minnesota’s right to repair proposal last year. “Further, there are no restrictions that would prevent a recycler from selling these assets to other non-recyclers in or outside of the State of Minnesota.”
And CTA is right; counterfeit devices would adversely hurt both the reputation of companies as well as compromise consumer security. Best case scenario, a fake iPhone has a buggy home button that only works when it wants to. Worst case, your phone is relaying all its information, including personal messages, bank accounts, and fingerprints, to someone with malicious intentions.
Pro: Let Them Eat Cake
I get why people feel entitled to fix their things. Personally, I'm someone who will do everything in their power to fix it cheap. While seriously anecdotal, hearing that my friends have bricked a Macbook Air and are forced to buy a $500 logic board from a certified shop or just pay $600 for a new one has been an endless source of frustration for me.
No one should be strong armed into paying nearly full price to repair a product, with literally no gauge for how much it could cost. Companies like Apple should feel a deep shame for setting this precedent of short-term obsolescence and propagating a throw-away culture.
Consumers should have the right to do as they please with the merchandise they buy. This is not a lease. We own these products, and we should have the freedom to repair them as we please.
And to be fair, Apple hasn't explicitly made it illegal to fix these devices; they just refuse to give any directions on how to do it correctly.
I also imagine Apple could save a ton of money not figuring out ways to solder down every piece of equipment as to scare off people potentially fixing it themselves. Money invested in prohibiting third-party repairs could be passed off to the customer and totally deflate my argument that Apple is wildly overpriced.
In conclusion, there are a lot of players in this space, and the issue goes far and wide beyond just the scope of consumer electronics. Companies like John Deere would also be affected by this, and are lobbying just as hard to kill this bit of legislation.
My final thoughts are pretty 50/50. I took a long look at how this could be a positive and negative for consumers, despite my gut reaction being completely against the idea that Apple wants to block my rights.
At the end of the day, Apple, among others, is a business. They would like to stay that way. Keeping customers out of electronics brings up a few issues, and whether you or not you see the value in those points is entirely subjective.
I think there is a middle ground that everyone can win, but it certainly deserves more public attention than it gets.