Apple physically makes its products difficult to repair in a wide variety of ways, and this week may have brought evidence that Apple is also struggling to keep annoying laws from challenging the status quo. It seems that an Apple lobbyist has succeeded in getting California to postpone its right-to-repair bill until 2020 at the earliest, in part by fueling fears that batteries will explode if consumers try to repair their iPhones.
As reported for the first time yesterday and The sources of The Verge can be corroborated, a lobbyist who works directly for Apple recently met with members of the Consumer Protection and Consumer Privacy Committee of the State of California, which was considering the bill. The lobbyist argued that consumers could hurt themselves if they accidentally puncture flammable lithium ion batteries in their phones, which could happen in the course of the easier repairs that this bill was designed to allow.
In response to the pressure, the co-sponsor of the bill withdrew it from the commission on Tuesday, saying it could be considered again in January 2020. "While this was not an easy decision, it was clear that the draft The law would not have the support it needed today, and manufacturers planted enough doubt with vague and unfounded claims of privacy and security, "said Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, who introduced the project for the first time in March 2018 again in March 2019.
Apple sold $ 31 billion in iPhones only in the last quarter, and that is a quarter in which iPhone sales slowed, so the company has a great interest in making sure to keep buying new phones instead of repairing them or replacing the batteries.On last year, when 11 million customers did not need to buy a new iPhone due to the battery replacements with discount, Apple admitted that those $ 29 batteries were one of the reasons for the decline in sales.
Traditionally, we have not seen much evidence that manufacturers like Apple have directly tried to influence legislators, rather than expressing their wishes through larger and generic industry advocacy groups like CompTIA, to this day.
According to sources from the California State Assembly who spoke Verge committee members met with Apple lobbyist Rod Diridon, who is listed as Apple's chief manager of "State and local government affairs – West. " He also figures as an Apple lobbyist on the CompTIA website, and it seems to be the same rod. Diridon Jr., who abruptly abandoned his role as a city clerk in Santa Clara, California last year, a city whose border stretches along the edge of Apple's new "spacecraft", Apple Park h eadquarters.
One of the employees of the Assembly of the State of California tells The Verge that Diridon did not necessarily focus on the risk of fire , and who admitted openly that many have to go wrong with a repair before a battery catches fire. Other issues included the difficulty of opening the phone and the risk of breaking the screen.
But one could point out that if Apple wanted to make phones safer to repair, it could make the process less difficult. Apple declined to comment on this story, but the sales pitch in the company's Environmental Responsibility Report 2019 makes it quite clear that the company would prefer Apple to pay to repair its phone:
To make sure repairs are carried out in a safe, secure, and with the highest quality, we train and certify continuously the personnel of the service channel, with more than 265,000 active trained personnel. Our suppliers perform diagnostics and calibrations to perform repairs accurately, avoiding unnecessary repairs and spare parts. When new parts are needed, only original Apple parts are used, so the repaired devices work exactly as they should. And all repairs certified by Apple are backed by Apple.
I could not communicate with Apple's Diridon to confirm that this is the idea, but I did catch up with two of their opponents: the co-founder of iFixit, Kyle Wiens and the PIRG of EE. UU -replies the director of the campaign, Nathan Proctor, who was also yesterday in the state capital, pressing the committee to approve the bill.
When I ask iFixit's co-founder, Kyle Wiens, about the possibility of drilling an iPhone's battery during a repair, he laughs – Even admitting that it's possible. (Here is a recent example from WSJ technical reviewer David Pierce.) The problem, Wiens explains, is that it rarely happens in the real world.
"Millions of people have made repairs to the iPhone using the iFixit guides, and people successfully overhaul these phones," says Wiens. "The only people I've seen who get hurt with an iPhone are those who have a broken screen, cutting off their finger."
Also, it's just as easy, maybe easier, to seriously hurt yourself when fixing things where it's widely accepted that people will repair them on their own. Whether you use gasoline or a lithium-ion battery, most cars have a flammable liquid inside. Wiens points out:
"We live in a world where risk is constantly managed; we do not need to invent an arbitrary barrier to repair the things we have," says Proctor.
Product repair should be preferable to waste, adds Proctor. He points to a 2009 EPA statistic on how 141 million cell phones are discarded each year, of which only 8 percent were recycled. (Apple recently increased its iPhone recycling program, but has only collected almost 1 million devices to date).
Proctor says it appeared that the right to repair had the support it needed this year in California, until only the last two weeks when Apple and others approached. "As the hearing date approaches, there's a big push, a big wave of opposition lobbying, saying things that are pretty terrifying to lawmakers like fire risk." They do not want that. let's have time to follow up. " He says.
And it was that last-minute momentum, The Verge understood, which convinced the sponsor of the bill that it should address these new fears before risking a possible "no" vote on the right of  Here's the rest of the statement from Assemblyman Eggman, the bill's sponsor:
I think we're on the right side of this problem, and that the bill will ultimately prevail. Unfortunately, presenting it today would not promote the problem because it would jeopardize our chance to continue working on the bill next year. I will work with committee members in the coming months to ensure the necessary support to realize the Right to Repair in California.
Now, California will have to wait another year, until January 2020, to see if the political will can be reunited