The bill has been pulled by its sponsor, Susan Talamantes-Eggman: “It became clear that the bill would not have the support it needed today, and manufacturers had sown enough doubt with vague and unbacked claims of privacy and security concerns,” she said. Her full statement has been added at the end of the piece.
In recent weeks, an Apple representative and a lobbyist for CompTIA, a trade organization that represents big tech companies, have 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 has learned.
According to two sources in the California State Assembly, the lobbyists have met with members of the Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee, which is set to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday afternoon. The lobbyists brought an iPhone to the meetings and showed lawmakers and their legislative aides the internal components of the phone. The lobbyists said that if improperly disassembled, consumers who are trying to fix their own iPhone could hurt themselves by puncturing the lithium-ion battery, the sources, who Motherboard is not naming because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said.
The argument is similar to 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.
a few weeks after CompTIA and 18 other trade organizations associated with big tech companies—including CTIA and the Entertainment Software Association—sent letters in opposition of the legislation to members of the Assembly’s Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee. One copy of the letter, addressed to committee chairperson Ed Chau and obtained by Motherboard, urges the chairperson “against moving forward with this legislation.” CTIA represents wireless carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, while the Entertainment Software Association represents Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and other video game manufacturers.
“With access to proprietary guides and tools, hackers can more easily circumvent security protections, harming not only the product owner but also everyone who shares their network,” the letter, obtained by Motherboard, stated. “When an electronic product breaks, consumers have a variety of repair options, including using an OEM’s [original equipment manufacturer] authorized repair network.”
Experts, however, say Apple’s and CompTIA’s warnings are far overblown. People with no special training regularly replace the batteries or cracked screens in their iPhones, and there are thousands of small, independent repair companies that regularly fix iPhones without incident. 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 doesn’t sell them to independent companies unless they become 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 US 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.”
“The security of devices is not related to diagnostics and service manuals, they’re related to poor code with vulnerabilities, weak authentication, devices deployed by default to be vulnerable,” Roberts told Motherboard. “We all know there’s no debate. Security for connected devices has nothing to do with repair.”
Wow, this is simply ridiculous. Profiteering by the large companies at the expense of smaller companies seems to be something the US government absolutely loves.