FTC concludes manufacturer repair restrictions harm consumers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 7
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Thursday issued a report on the so-called "right to repair" debate, suggesting repair restrictions put in place by companies like Apple negatively impact consumers and small businesses.

Repair


The report, "Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions (PDF link)," was fulfilled at the direction of Congress and takes an in-depth look at the right to repair issue with a concentration on phone manufacturers and carmakers. Findings were issued to Congress with unanimous consent from the FTC.

"Many consumer products have become harder to fix and maintain," the report reads. "Repairs today often require specialized tools, difficult-to-obtain parts, and access to proprietary diagnostic software. Consumers whose products break then have limited choices. Furthermore, the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities. Many Black-owned small businesses are in the repair and maintenance industries, and difficulties facing small businesses can disproportionately affect small businesses owned by people of color."

Through a repair rights workshop, public comments, responses to a Request for Empirical Research and Data, and independent research, the commission found "there is scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions." As the FTC notes, there are certain provisions protecting consumer rights to repair without voiding warranty, but restrictions put in place by manufacturers have made it difficult to exercise those rights.

Specifically named in the report are physical restrictions like specialized nuts and bolts (such as Apple's "pentalobe" screws), use of glue to seal devices and soldering of components like RAM and storage onto motherboards.

Unavailability of parts, repair manuals, and diagnostic software and tools is also highlighted. Apple does not provide such material to facilities or individuals outside of its authorized repair network.

Other issues include designs that make independent repairs less safe (lithium-ion batteries), telematics, application of patent rights and enforcement of trademarks, disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair, software locks, digital rights management and technical protection measures, and end user license agreements.

Apple utilizes a number of the above mentioned strategies to thwart unauthorized repairs, including the use of software locks. For example, current iPhones pair parts like the screen and biometric hardware with onboard logic, meaning certain functions are made inoperable if a component is replaced without access to the correct diagnostics tools -- even with OEM parts.

The FTC notes consumers, especially owners of expensive equipment like iPhone, show an interest in repairing their products over replacing them with a new model. As an example, the report points to a 2017 battery replacement program Apple rolled out in response to public outcry over an iOS update that artificially reduced processor performance on handsets with aging cells. In early 2019, Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the company replaced 11 million batteries, some 9 million more than expected, and partially blamed a slowdown in iPhone sales on the program's success.

Other areas of the report cover antitrust and monopolization concerns, and the Magnuson-Moss warranty Act.

For its part, Apple maintains that expanded right to repair laws would expose industry secrets and could create security and safety issues for existing customers. The company contends its products should only be serviced by qualified technicians, a stance that irks third-party repair firms.

Conducting repairs through authorized outlets like Apple stores and vetted shops provides customers with a consistent experience, while an authorized repair network helps the company control and protect its various hardware platforms, Apple has said.

On the topic of quality of service, the FTC concludes that manufacturer claims are unfounded, as none could provide "empirical evidence to support their concerns about reputational harm or potential liability resulting from faulty third party repairs."

The FTC promises to "pursue appropriate law enforcement and regulatory options," foster consumer education and work with legislators on relevant issues.

Apple faces a number of state-level right to right to repair bills and has aggressively lobbied against such legislation. So far, none have been successful. Most recently, a Colorado bill was shot down in April for being too broad.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    glennhglennh Posts: 40member
    This sounds like the government is getting into the business of telling manufacturers how to design their products so that others can make a living repairing them. So much for innovations and trade secrets! 
    thtKTRwilliamlondonBittySonJFC_PAviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 82
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 709member
    Gray market iPhones anyone?
    KTRBittySon
  • Reply 3 of 82
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,320member
    Until Uncle Joe’s repair shop starts messing up everyone’s iPhones while voiding the warranties.

    Then these “right to repair” idiots will blame Apple for Uncle Joe’s failures. 

    williamlondonBittySonrepressthisbaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 82
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 2,341member
    ...companies like Apple negatively impact consumers and small businesses. ...

    The report, "Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions (PDF link)," was fulfilled at the direction of Congress and takes an in-depth look at the right to repair issue with a concentration on phone manufacturers and carmakers. Findings were issued to Congress with unanimous consent from the FTC.

    ... the report reads. "Repairs today often require specialized tools, difficult-to-obtain parts, and access to proprietary diagnostic software. Consumers whose products break then have limited choices. Furthermore, the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities. Many Black-owned small businesses are in the repair and maintenance industries, and difficulties facing small businesses can disproportionately affect small businesses owned by people of color."
    So the FTC has unanimously stated that Apple's (and other companies') restrictions on third party repair "may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities." So the FTC has unanimously declared that Apple's restrictions are racist. Wow. The FTC has opened my eyes.
    georgie01Beatsrandominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 82
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,178member
    Well there goes Apple’s satisfaction rating down the tube. These jack legs are going to create huge problems and blame Apple for the device failure after supposed repairs. 
    BittySonBeatsjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 82
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,765member
    This is an important first step and is good news.

    We'll see what comes of it but it is about time that manufacturers began improving their designs to make things easier to repair or upgrade. 

    muthuk_vanalingamAlex_Vprismaticsdysamoriachemengin1
  • Reply 7 of 82
    ppietrappietra Posts: 251member
    Most of what is said in the report shows some lack of knowledge of what are todays technological advancements and requirements. Do they think that it could be as easy to repair (every component) as an old CRT TV, or some power supply?
    However, it is ridiculous how much companies such as Apple charge for parts and repairs, for things that can already be easily swapped. That is what the authorities should focus on, making sure that people have access to affordable repairs and wide availability of repair shops... not nitpicking on design decisions like they would know better.
    georgie01
  • Reply 8 of 82
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 133member
    I do my own maintenance and repairs on my own stuff, like cars, and generally support the principle of repairable goods.  There is a lot of stuff that's disposable nowadays because consumers only look at price, not quality, and that discourages well-engineered, durable, and repairable products which would have higher costs.

    On the flip side, I also recognize that there are limits to what can feasibly repaired, and this movement, particularly as it relates to electronic devices, has veered into dogma, not unlike the zealotry surrounding open source software a while back, lacking both nuance and pragmatism.
    chasmAlex_Vlongpathplanetary paul
  • Reply 9 of 82
    I will probably buy new Apple devices only half as often as I do today if this FTC suggestion is realized. Because for sure the prices on second-hand market will go down if customers are not sure about the state of the devices they buy.

    Today, you can buy a used iPhone and pretty much know that what you get is what you see. Any previous repairs would have put the device back into perfect condition.
    chasmlongpathBittySonplanetary paulwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 82
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,365member
    I am normally pretty pro-right to repair, especially for the kinds of things from whence this out-of-control movement sprang: farm equipment. But also most other things.

    But once a device routinely carries sensitive personal information, my interest in "right-of-repair" comes to a flying stop. I have absolutely zero interest in an unauthorized-by-Apple, untrained-by-Apple "technician" having access to my files, photos, or the ability to "replace" the Secure Enclave with an Insecure Enclave, which the US government (among many even less savory entities) would do in a second if they could.

    Be careful what you wish for, Right to Repair advocates. Be VERY careful.
    KTRlongpathgeorgie01EsquireCatsBittySonroundaboutnowrepressthisviclauyycplanetary paulwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 82
    applguyapplguy Posts: 134member
    Does a Tesla fall into the category of consumer products? 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 82
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,165member
    Interesting to see the FTC dismissing manufacturer’s viewpoints for lack of empirical evidence, while not citing empirical evidence for their own claims.

    Thats when you can see it’s agenda based conclusions, the document is written to fit a predetermined narrative.

    (We don’t patch security holes by waiting to see how badly they can be exploited. I.E we don’t wait for
    empirical evidence to justify it.)
    georgie01JFC_PABittySonroundaboutnowrepressthisviclauyycplanetary paulwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 82
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,765member
    genovelle said:
    Well there goes Apple’s satisfaction rating down the tube. These jack legs are going to create huge problems and blame Apple for the device failure after supposed repairs. 
    Apple's satisfaction rating will not go down the tube.

    Most people will try Apple as a logical first step for repair.

    If Apple fails to offer a solution or a competitive price, that would impact satisfaction ratings more than anything else.

    There are endless examples out there of Apple refusing to repair, refusing to include under warranty repair, quoting exorbitant prices, damaging phones in repair and not admitting to it and damaging phones while getting into them (screen damage) and leaving the consumer up the creak without a paddle.

    When I had an iPhone battery replaced, they wouldn't even touch it until I had signed acceptance of potential damage and their proposed solution (getting back a damaged phone or the option of a substitute equivalent refurbished phone at xxx price).

    With sales of AppleCare and Apple's own first or third party services only a tiny fragment of total iPhone users will ever set foot in an independent repair shop and if they are adequately licenced and monitored and have access to parts, most people will see them as lifesavers.

    Of course this issue is closely related to other issues like warranty length and privacy. For as long as I can remember, Apple (and others) have required stock failed storage media to go back to them. Anything that fails with private information on it should be left in the hands of users so that they can decide what to do with it. 

    Manufacturers had the perfect opportunity to set out their stall here but the article makes it clear that the FTC believes no one could produce decent evidence to support their stances. 

    The opposite is true. Manufacturers have acted to harm consumer interests in the name of profits. 

    prismaticsmuthuk_vanalingam80s_Apple_Guydysamorianadriel
  • Reply 14 of 82
    Beats said:
    Until Uncle Joe’s repair shop starts messing up everyone’s iPhones while voiding the warranties.

    Then these “right to repair” idiots will blame Apple for Uncle Joe’s failures. 

    The law states warranties are not voided by outside repair unless the company can prove it cause the issue that currently needs repair.  It’s the Magnussen-Moss Act. The burden is on the company to PROVE it. 
    jbtuckrAlex_Vdysamoria
  • Reply 15 of 82
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,765member
    Beats said:
    Until Uncle Joe’s repair shop starts messing up everyone’s iPhones while voiding the warranties.

    Then these “right to repair” idiots will blame Apple for Uncle Joe’s failures. 

    If your phone is under warranty, why would you go to Uncle Joe's?

    If Uncle Joe's is authorised to carry out warranty repairs, Where's the problem? 
    Alex_Vprismaticsmuthuk_vanalingam80s_Apple_GuytokyojimudysamoriaMplsPchemengin1
  • Reply 16 of 82
    KTRKTR Posts: 75member
    chasm said:
    I am normally pretty pro-right to repair, especially for the kinds of things from whence this out-of-control movement sprang: farm equipment. But also most other things.

    But once a device routinely carries sensitive personal information, my interest in "right-of-repair" comes to a flying stop. I have absolutely zero interest in an unauthorized-by-Apple, untrained-by-Apple "technician" having access to my files, photos, or the ability to "replace" the Secure Enclave with an Insecure Enclave, which the US government (among many even less savory entities) would do in a second if they could.

    Be careful what you wish for, Right to Repair advocates. Be VERY careful.
    Well said my friend.  I personally believe that the government Does not know what they are going, and is just generalizing.  The reason, I believe the government said they, ( the manufactures ) don't have, or show claims) is, that it has worked so far.  ( to protect trade secretes, and others mention in this forum).  Seems like we safe heading back to the 80's again.  Seems like the government is being tricked and they don't even know it.  AND YO WONDER WHY THE infrastructure IS SO BAD IN THIS COUNTRY.  ALL THESE, AMERICAN company's are trying to do is to help beef it up, and to help weed out the local bad guys.  Like Tim Cook said.  It only takes one bad actor.  
    longpathEsquireCatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 82
    jbtuckrjbtuckr Posts: 4member
    A lot of people commenting don’t fully understand or know the scope of what this actually means for consumers. As a person who has been repairing iPhones for years, I have a lot of experience with Apple’s anti-repair tactics. 

    With the iPhone 7, apple made Touch ID (as always) be disabled if the home button was replaced due to damage, but they also disabled the 3D input so the button wouldn’t register. It took years to finally come up with a work-around. 

    When the iPhone 8/8plus came out, Apple has it coded into iOS that those devices would disable touchscreen capabilities unless the lcd panel was OEM. This was later “fixed” because it was ridiculous and infuriated many. 

    With the iPhone X-present, apple disabled FaceID if the earpiece/proximity sensor flex cable SN doesn’t match what is hard-coded to the motherboard, same as they did with TouchID except the cameras that actually read your face aren’t part of that cable. It requires going to apple so they can hook it up to a machine (“Horizons”) or their new cloud software to recode it for a HEFTY price. I also vaguely remember something about the wireless charging coil causing problems sofware-locked when replaced. 

    Since the iPhone 8, Apple disabled TrueTone on the device if the screen SN doesn’t match the original screen SN, even if it’s OEM and even though the ambient light sensor is a separate module. 

    When the iPhone 11 was released, Apple started having the phone display a message that says the phone needs service due to a non original apple screen, even if the screen is in fact OEM. That same year, Apple also started making the devices have SN paired batteries as well, meaning another prompt would nag you saying that the battery isn’t original even if it is indeed OEM. The batteries also stopped reporting battery health and will only say Service; every prior iPhone will still tell you the battery health regardless if the replacement battery is OEM or aftermarket. 

    With the iPhone 12 series, Apple added the cameras to the list of SN locked parts that stop functioning when replaced. I haven’t worked on any 12’s yet since they’re so new still (and Ceramic Shield really is amazing), so I don’t know if this is still the case or not.  

    Apple is also just petty in the repairs department, every now and then adding new screw types into the mix(tristar), making it more annoying to repair. 



    For everyone making the “security” argument, this paragraph is for you: If you don’t want repair shops accessing your data, don’t give them your passcode. Apple leads the way in device security, so if you don’t give it to them, there’s no way they can hack into your device. There is currently only one type of machine that can hack an iPhone in the world, it’s called GreyKey and it was made in Israel; it currently costs $50k for government officials only to be able to purchase this machine. Also, when this machine was made aware to apple, they implemented an update that fixes this issue: the lightning port won’t transmit data unless the phone has had the passcode typed into it within an hour timeframe. Before you hand your phone over, either hit the lock button 5 times or reboot your phone and there’s nothing anybody on the planet can do to get into it.
    As a side note to the open-software debate: open software increases the security of a program exponentially. Linux is open software and has virtually no bugs whatsoever. Linux can run on a device for years without having to be rebooted because it has so many eyes and minds constantly searching to fix and improve it.  







    I understand Apple wanting to keep their quality top notch and wanting to preserve secrets and user security, but their repair practices hurt the consumer. Unless you’re getting a battery replacement or screen repair from Apple, you’re going to be paying the full “Other Damage (Out of Warranty)” fee, which is $719 for the iPhone 12 Pro and $599 for the iPhone 12 (to put it in perspective). Other damage includes anything besides the screen or battery, so that price is INSANE. At the shop I work at, repairs for a charge port replacement are $45, cameras are $60, back glass is $70, loudspeaker is $45, battery is $45, etc, all including labor. In short, Apple is exponentially and unethically profiting off of consumers in this aspect. If they don’t want repair shops reproducing their parts and repairing phones, the answer is to make it affordable and expand their price list to include the small-parts, and to lower the prices. Part costs are very cheap for these types of parts. 
    Despite all of this though, Apple does actually have competitive screen repair costs for the quality of their screens. Also, many repair shops skimp out on screens and get the cheapest parts available but still charge full price. Even worse, a lot of shops order LCD panels instead of OLED for phones that use OLED screens, yet still charge the very expensive OLED price. (Also, OLED phones aren’t meant to power LCD screens, so there’s a lot wrong with people doing that in the first place.)
    Anyways, I made my case. Apple needs to reform their repair policies, either by amending  the pricing or by not locking down every component they can any chance they get. 




    edited May 7 Alex_Vmuthuk_vanalingam80s_Apple_Guydavapmillertokyojimudysamoriarepressthisviclauyycchemengin1
  • Reply 18 of 82
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,765member
    chasm said:
    I am normally pretty pro-right to repair, especially for the kinds of things from whence this out-of-control movement sprang: farm equipment. But also most other things.

    But once a device routinely carries sensitive personal information, my interest in "right-of-repair" comes to a flying stop. I have absolutely zero interest in an unauthorized-by-Apple, untrained-by-Apple "technician" having access to my files, photos, or the ability to "replace" the Secure Enclave with an Insecure Enclave, which the US government (among many even less savory entities) would do in a second if they could.

    Be careful what you wish for, Right to Repair advocates. Be VERY careful.
    If you decide not to use an Apple or Apple authorised dealer it is probably because they have refused to repair the device or quoted too high a price.

    In those circumstances, you probably put more priority into getting access to your data than third party privacy concerns.

    My phone has a Repair Mode that can be activated prior to repair specifically to encrypt and protect your content while the device is serviced. 
    prismaticsmuthuk_vanalingam80s_Apple_Guydysamoriachemengin1
  • Reply 19 of 82
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 523member
    There is a meaningful difference between repairs and upgrades. Apple has arguably been making repairs easier since the iPhone 6.

    Several of their laptops now have the USB-C ports on daughtercards connected by cables to the logic board. Same for Lightning ports on their phones. If a port breaks, it's possible to replace without involving surface-mount soldering. They retain their batteries with adhesive, but they have tabs to pull to release it, and the battery cable isn't soldered to the board. iPhone displays are as easy to replace as they have ever been.

    The weird custom screw heads are a pain, absolutely. We already had Torx. Pentalobe is just insulting. Combining security-critical parts (which justifiably need more scrutiny to replace) like the user-facing camera with parts which commonly fail like the screen is definitely bad. I don't see a good way to make it possible to swap cameras without making the screen significantly thicker, though.

    Soldered flash is the biggest issue I have with Apple's lineup. SSDs last much longer than people think, but they are still wear components, just like the battery. Replaceable flash would eat into battery space, but with the M1 machines especially, I don't think it would reduce capacity enough for users to care.

    RAM very rarely becomes faulty, so calls to move back to SO-DIMMs are about upgrades, not repairs.
    Alex_Vdysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 82
    jbtuckrjbtuckr Posts: 4member
    zimmie said:
    There is a meaningful difference between repairs and upgrades. Apple has arguably been making repairs easier since the iPhone 6.

    Several of their laptops now have the USB-C ports on daughtercards connected by cables to the logic board. Same for Lightning ports on their phones. If a port breaks, it's possible to replace without involving surface-mount soldering. They retain their batteries with adhesive, but they have tabs to pull to release it, and the battery cable isn't soldered to the board. iPhone displays are as easy to replace as they have ever been.

    The phones have been easier since the 4, since you no longer have to literally disassemble the whole phone to get to the screen, but I think it’s easier now simply because there are less components attached to the screen to have to remove. 
    Also, the camera has never been a part of the screen? It stopped being screwed into the display since the X, but even before then you just simply had to unscrew the shielding. 

    The battery pull tabs are my favorite because they never work as intended and end up ripping and retreating underneath the battery, but it’s funny to me. 


    I’m a strong believer that the parts that are easy to replace in the phones are only there to make it easier for apple’s own technicians, they have made it abundantly clear they only approve of certified repairs. 
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