FTC pledges to take on unlawful restrictions on right-to-repair

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 21
For the first time, the FTC has taken a formal stance against unlawful repair restrictions, echoing a position that the White House took less than a week ago.

Right-to-repair heats up with FTC support. Photo credit: Apple
Right-to-repair heats up with FTC support. Photo credit: Apple


The conversation surrounding the right-to-repair movement has accelerated recently with new legislation and tech leaders sharing their support. Apple's control of repair parts and authorized facilities make it a prime target for the movement.

The FTC has filed a policy statement taking a stance against unlawful repair practices. The statement was approved unanimously by the FTC and will be used to encourage competition in repair markets with "vigor."

"While efforts by dominant firms to restrict repair markets are not new, changes in technology and more prevalent use of software has created fresh opportunities for companies to limit independent repair," says FTC Chair Lina Khan. "These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency."

The FTC statement says that the enforcement agency will ramp up efforts against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. For example, while Apple itself is not cited, Apple only allows authorized repair facilities to order replacement parts or access diagnostic tools.

An iPhone user seeking to repair their device must visit Apple itself or choose from a list of repair facilities specifically chosen by Apple. Practically, that means that an average user cannot realistically repair their device, nor can they choose a different repair facility not affiliated with Apple and expect continued warranty coverage.

Apple isn't the only company with strict repair restrictions and part allocation rules. Microsoft has similar issues with the Surface line of products, and the extremely popular Xbox family of gaming consoles. Nintendo and Sony are similar with their gaming hardware as well. The FTC is expected to target any company that makes it difficult for consumers to repair their own devices.

The pledge comes only days after Washington asked the FTC to step up right-to-repair regulations. This FTC decision is among the first major anti-monopoly moves made by Lina Khan after becoming the new chair.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,734member
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    Oferforgot usernamemuthuk_vanalingamelijahgkillroychemengin1
  • Reply 2 of 31
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,273member
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    edited July 21 williamlondontransmasterFileMakerFellerkillroyauxiohammeroftruthn2itivguy
  • Reply 3 of 31
    This is why I alway purchase Apple care. I also change out my primary iPhone every 2 years. I am a hamradio operator and I do repair electronic equipment. What we are faced with is counterfeit parts. I see 3rd party repair work for Apple devices flooded with cheap knockoff counterfeit parts. Even the most ethical repair shop is going to get these fake parts they are almost impossible to tell from real ones.  If I require work on anything Apple it will be Apple that will work on it. 
    killroyauxio
  • Reply 4 of 31
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,827member
    I wish the politicians behind this would simply state what they really want. Calling it "right to repair" is totally disingenuous. If you want to attempt a repair on something you purchased, regardless of the manufacturer or product, and assume full responsibility for all damage that you cause, and absolve the manufacturer from any liability and warranty - go for it. That's your right, whether you personally attempt the repair or farm out the job to a muffler repair shop. Right to repair == right to destroy == right to own the consequences.

    I think what most people think they want are repairable products - whatever that means in terms of today's products with micro-miniature components, and embedded proprietary software/firmware, most of which is designed for mass production automated, one-time, assembly by robots and machinery, not human hands. One time assembly, as in using glues rather than screws. Assembly techniques that have been used in integrated circuits, SoCs, and other "potted" devices have moved up to larger sized components. These products were designed for ease of assembly, not ease of disassembly. Yeah, you can heat the glue and peel certain things apart, just like you can de-lid an IC to get at its internals. Good luck with that, but you certainly have the "right" to try it.

    I'm at a loss to understand how high level government officials are being tasked with something so esoteric and meaningless to the vast majority of the population when they can't even figure out the repair equation on some very basic stuff, like how to keep rusting and decaying bridges, overpasses, and roads from crumbling to pieces, falling down, and killing people. Is there some sort of "right to repair" issue with repairing bridges and roads that we don't know about? If they are looking for permission from those of us who pay to fix these failing things, I'm adding in my "yes" vote to them proceeding with the needed repairs. This would benefit all consumers a lot more than forcing consumer electronics companies to encourage anyone with a soldering iron and a "no guts - no glory" attitude to pry open their $1500 widget to save the couple of hundred bucks they'd have to pay someone who actually knows what they are doing and guarantees their work to service their baby.
    FileMakerFellerDogpersonMplsPkillroylarryjwn2itivguy
  • Reply 5 of 31
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,474member
    I think the vast majority of Apple product owners will be unaffected by this. I know for myself that I would never, EVER, use a third party repair shop to work on my Apple gear, even a battery replacement. An article elsewhere estimates Apple has lost $3.2B to counterfeit AirPods. imagine the flood of counterfeit parts going to third party repair shops as they struggle to compete against each other. It’s no different than the scam investigations of independent auto repair shops where customers are lied to garner large repair bills. It will be BUYER BEWARE on steroids for Apple owners wanting to get their gear fixed. 
    killroyn2itivguy
  • Reply 6 of 31
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 5,175member
    I honestly don't have an issue with Bob's repair shop going through proper measures to become and Apple Authorized repair center. I haven't looked lately so maybe things have changed but since Apple Retail Stores were coming up around the world it seemed like Apple wasn't allowing many shops to even have a chance at becoming an authorized service center, basically forcing people to go to Apple Stores. Most likely by design as then people could also look and experience all the different Apple products in the mean time. 

    But I do see that Apple should provide an avenue for repair centers to become authorized to service Apple products meaning, they get trained, they are able to get Apple diagnosing capabilities, the ability to get genuine Apple parts to put back into someone's device, etc. A service center should be able to have the ability to reprogram a TouchID sensor or whatever Apple is able to do that others are not. As long as that business goes through proper channels then thats fine. If that shop continuously screws up the customer will not want to keep going back. Apple can develop a system (it kinda already has one) where everything can be tracked to make sure things are done properly and in a way where everyone has an equal chance. Apple could somehow be able to track what's going on with businesses to make sure of things like scamming people, making sure repairs are done accurately, etc. 

    I don't however think it's a great idea to allow just anyone and everyone to repair a device. There are many out there who think they know what they're doing and they're in fact very dangerous. Then they screw up the device and will expect Apple to fix it, or they'll just sell it fixed half-ass and eventually this could in turn harm Apple's reputation for quality products. 
    edited July 21 muthuk_vanalingamkillroy
  • Reply 7 of 31
    I am more inclined to require full manufacturer support for a minimum of 10 years - much like automobile manufacturers.  This would be both hardware and software / firmware.  If a company decides to go with some proprietary interface, they should be required to provide support for 15 years minimum.  If companies don't like the idea of providing support for that long, just require them to release any and all information required to allow the aftermarket to provide the support.  I am all for technological innovation, but I do get weary of forced obsolescence.
    elijahg
  • Reply 8 of 31
    The thing is, Apple have built a reputation for being trustworthy. Nobody believes that a company can be trustworthy, so they assume it's all smoke and mirrors because, hey, even the President of the United States was untrustworthy and you can't get more important than that. /s


    Apple has justifiable reasons for restricting repairs to trained personnel, but they also have unjustifiable reasons for it. The decision that needs to be made is whether or not the level of harm from the existing situation is great enough to justify changing, recognising that unforeseen consequences can impact the balance of harm vs benefit. And given the energy stored in batteries these days, the potential harms are great indeed, both to consumers/users and the corporations that manufacture the devices - look at what happened to Samsung after the "explodophone" disaster, and imagine what could have happened had Samsung been an American company.
    killroy
  • Reply 9 of 31
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    If there is a risk of shorting the battery poles while replacing the battery that is a design issue.
    muthuk_vanalingamMplsPbeowulfschmidtchemengin1elijahg
  • Reply 10 of 31
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,734member
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    Batteries are hazardous. OTOH before I got my iPhone my LG feature phone had a door. You opened it, lifted the battery module out, and put in a new one. Hardly any more risk than carrying the phone in your pocket. 
    Proper testing is part of the deal when you go to any shop. If I take my Toyota to Mike's Brakes and he does a crappy job and I'm killed in a crash, it's Mike's Brakes that gets sued. Any attempt to go after Toyota would be thrown out with prejudice. Same goes if I take my iPad to Mike's Phone Repair and they accidentally turn it into a bomb, any attempt to go after Apple would be squashed pretty fast. 
    Genuine parts is a huge issue though. Heck even in the military and aerospace they occasionally run into substandard bogus party parts. I suspect even Apple itself has had to deal with it. 
    Agreed an iPhone is not a car. A car is far more complex. Other than screens and batteries what else are people clamouring to replace? If something goes wrong on the MB even Apple just swaps out the whole thing. iFixit disassembly pages have gotten pretty short in the last few years. Once the case of the whatever-it-is is open, usually there's not much to see. There are normally only a few discrete modules. 
    If Apple allowed third parties to replace screens and batteries, most of the people pushing for Right To Repair would be satisfied. Let anything beyond that be a factory repair.
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 11 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,333member
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    In most cases that's complete rubbish, they're not tied together. And even if they are, they are only this way to make it hard for third parties to repair. There is zero reason a screen or batteries needs to be authenticated to the CPU/secure enclave. Also please do give a source for this wild claim that an explosion whilst changing an iPhone battery can be "deadly". Or is that something you dreamt up yourself as a weak justification against right to repair?

    Your argument falls entirely flat since the exact same one could be made for cars, but car repairs are allowed by anyone. Unlike a phone, which is incredibly unlikely to kill or seriously maim anyone if repaired incorrectly, a badly repaired car could kill the occupant, passengers, other car drivers and pedestrians. And yet third party garages exist and indeed any person is allowed to repair and modify their own cars with no oversight. In fact car manufacturers are required to make all parts available to anyone who wishes to buy them.

    People who are incapable of repairing their own vehicle generally don't attempt the repair, and if a botched repair results in an accident the person who carried out the repair is responsible. If a third party part is found to be at fault, the supplier of that part is the responsible party as long as it has been installed correctly. No one tries to sue VW because someone caused a death by screwing up a repair to the brakes on their car. Similarly VW could easily recognise a botched repair and then refuse to honour warranty, which would be fair enough since repairs under warranty should always be done by the manufacturer.

    Apple changed policy recently to allow repairs even if the display or battery has been replaced by a counterfeit part, so they can't be too worried about the blame potential.

    The idea that people would blame Apple if a third party battery blows up is a weak straw man. Apple is anti-right to repair for one reason, and that is Cook knows there's plenty of profit to be made from Apple's expensive repairs.
    edited July 22 muthuk_vanalingamMplsPchemengin1
  • Reply 12 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,333member
    This is why I alway purchase Apple care. I also change out my primary iPhone every 2 years. I am a hamradio operator and I do repair electronic equipment. What we are faced with is counterfeit parts. I see 3rd party repair work for Apple devices flooded with cheap knockoff counterfeit parts. Even the most ethical repair shop is going to get these fake parts they are almost impossible to tell from real ones.  If I require work on anything Apple it will be Apple that will work on it. 
    If you could buy parts direct from Apple this issue would immediately vanish, so you've just given another reason why Apple should supply spare parts to anyone who wants them. Otherwise the only choice people have for third party repairs are third party components. 
    muthuk_vanalingamMplsP
  • Reply 13 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,333member
    lkrupp said:
    I think the vast majority of Apple product owners will be unaffected by this. I know for myself that I would never, EVER, use a third party repair shop to work on my Apple gear, even a battery replacement. An article elsewhere estimates Apple has lost $3.2B to counterfeit AirPods. imagine the flood of counterfeit parts going to third party repair shops as they struggle to compete against each other. It’s no different than the scam investigations of independent auto repair shops where customers are lied to garner large repair bills. It will be BUYER BEWARE on steroids for Apple owners wanting to get their gear fixed. 
    Again, complete rubbish. Third party repair shops just like authorised Apple repair shops could get parts directly from Apple, so they wouldn't be counterfeit. Counterfeit Airpods are an entirely different subject, nothing to do with repairs whatsoever, Apple is not losing money from counterfeit parts because they don't sell any parts in the first place. There is a "flood" of counterfeit parts going to third party repair shops now because genuine ones aren't available, meaning the customer will *always* have counterfeit parts if they choose to use a third party to repair their phone. Whilst Apple makes exactly $0 from those counterfeit parts, they could make money selling genuine parts to customers. Of course this would be less than the extortionate amount they charge for repairs, which is the real reason they're so anti-right to repair legalisation. It's another few $$ in Cook's ever ballooning wallet.
    MplsPchemengin1
  • Reply 14 of 31
    DAalseth said:
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    If Apple allowed third parties to replace screens and batteries, most of the people pushing for Right To Repair would be satisfied. Let anything beyond that be a factory repair.
    I think you are absolutely spot on with this.
    killroy
  • Reply 15 of 31
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,333member
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    If there is a risk of shorting the battery poles while replacing the battery that is a design issue.
    Certainly less risk of that in a phone than in a car where someone could drop a wrench across the battery terminals and have potentially 1000Wh+ of energy explode in their face vs ~10Wh from a phone battery. That's not to mention the possibility of nicking the fuel line and having 500,000Wh+ of energy blowing up. But according to the anti-repair people (probably the same people who have zero initiative and will only do something once they've been "trained") the risk from the phone repairs is just as high as car repairs. Which is just utter shit.
    MplsPmuthuk_vanalingamchemengin1
  • Reply 16 of 31
    All of the people who advocate against right to repair have been benefitting from it for decades with regard to their cars.  All sorts of dire consequences were predicted then, too.

    Car manufacturers aren't held responsible for damages caused by third party repairs, and neither will Apple be held so.
    chemengin1elijahg
  • Reply 17 of 31
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,271member
    Once again, we hear the same, tired arguments and excuses for companies like Apple to prevent anyone else from repairing products. None of these arguments are truly valid or hold up to any degree of logical thought or scrutiny. 

    As I have stated before, the biggest part of a product’s environmental impact occurs at manufacture and the single best thing a consumer can do for the environment is to repair and use a product as long as possible.  Any company that claims to be environmentally friendly but makes it difficult to repair them is being disingenuous and hypocritical. 
    muthuk_vanalingamchemengin1elijahg
  • Reply 18 of 31
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,754member
    Factory authorized service centers have been around since the first electronics hit the market and there's nothing wrong with that.
    No company, be it Apple, Microsoft or Sony should be required to sell parts to anybody who just asks for them. There needs to be some level of demonstrated competency to do the repair. Maybe a tiered approach based on the complexity of the repair is a fair compromise.

    If you want to take a chance with 3rd-party repairs using non-factory parts, feel free but neither Apple nor anyone else should be compelled to provide the parts or technical info.

  • Reply 19 of 31
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,904member
    genovelle said:
    DAalseth said:
    I have to admit that I’ve changed my mind on Right to Repair. Common things, phone screens and batteries, for example, should be easy and fairly inexpensive. I understand if a particular component needs to be factory replaced for security, a touch ID button for example. But how often do those break. Common repairs though should not be tough or expensive. 
    All of these things are tied together. Even Apple with trained techs have issues dealing with the batteries in phones. If handled improperly they go into a runaway thermal reaction event that can be deadly. It has happened at Apple stores in the repair departments. The difference is they are trained to handle this and have containment devices designed to minimize risk. 

    They are also performing proper testing. The other side to this is random 3rd parties can claim they know what they are doing, perform a substandard repair that fails weeks later and know the customer’s family will attempt to sue Apple because of the resulting death of their loved one. 

    Uncertified 3rd parties can also claim to use genuine Apple parts, but then turn around and use cheap knockoffs and then blame Apple when the customer has issues down the road. 

    This is not a car. When Honda sells their Hydrogen car there are only a few places to service it. The reason is there is more to repairing it then just connecting some parts together. 
    That is where 'design for repair' comes in.

    A battery in a smartphone should not be anymore of a health hazard to a technician than a pair of scissors. 
    muthuk_vanalingamMplsPelijahg
  • Reply 20 of 31
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,904member
    lkrupp said:
    I think the vast majority of Apple product owners will be unaffected by this. I know for myself that I would never, EVER, use a third party repair shop to work on my Apple gear, even a battery replacement. An article elsewhere estimates Apple has lost $3.2B to counterfeit AirPods. imagine the flood of counterfeit parts going to third party repair shops as they struggle to compete against each other. It’s no different than the scam investigations of independent auto repair shops where customers are lied to garner large repair bills. It will be BUYER BEWARE on steroids for Apple owners wanting to get their gear fixed. 
    Traceability is an important part of many systems. Spare parts can be traced too but there is room for improvement.

    Some people are working on improving that side of things.

    https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9103086
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