Back in February, we reported how Nebraska had introduced a bill that would make it easier for citizens and independent repair shops to fix broken iPhones. Similar legislation has been introduced in seven other states: Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
In March, Apple and AT&T went to court in Nebraska opposing the “right-to-repair” bill. The companies cited safety concerns as reasons for their opposition to the law. The corporations and other lobbyists, such as John Deere, claim that if passed, the bill would put consumers at significant risk of bodily injury such as “cuts from a broken screen” or “burns from a mishandled lithium-ion battery.”
The introduction of the legislation is a “shotgun approach” initiated by lobbyists for Repair.org. Their hope is that at least one of these states will pass the bill. If that happens, it may "pressure manufacturers to cede the legal point," thus making it law de facto nationwide.
In 2012, that is exactly what happened with a similar right-to-repair law for automobiles that passed in Massachusetts. If laws like this pass in one state, then the corporations often give up the fight because it becomes too burdensome.
"If they’re concerned about exploding batteries, put warning labels on them and tell consumers how to replace them safely.”
The latest confrontation has been in New York where companies like phone insurance company Asurion, plus others like Toyota and Caterpillar are taking up the battle. According to Digital Trends, “Since the beginning of 2017, these companies have spent upwards of $366,000 to maintain pressure on state lawmakers” to throw the bill out.
To some, the excuses that consumers could “hurt themselves” is just a way to raise concern over public safety and that the real motivation is to monopolize the repair industry.
Repair.org executive director Gay Gordon-Byrne said that if they really wanted to ensure public safety, “they should want to give people as much information about how to deal with a hazardous thing as they can. If they’re concerned about exploding batteries, put warning labels on them and tell consumers how to replace them safely.”
It is also important to remember that it is not all about the consumer repairing their own phones. Right-to-repair laws would allow professional technicians, who are highly skilled at making these types of repairs, access to the parts, tools, and documentation that they need to fix the devices the right way.