Lobbying records in New York state show that Apple, Verizon, and the tech industry’s largest trade organizations are opposing a bill that would make it easier for consumers and independent companies to repair your electronics.
The bill, called the “Fair Repair Act,” would require electronics companies to sell replacement parts and tools to the general public, would prohibit “software locks” that restrict repairs, and in many cases would require companies to make repair guides available to the public. Apple and other tech giants have been suspected of opposing the legislation in many of the 11 states where similar bills have been introduced, but New York’s robust lobbying disclosure laws have made information about which companies are hiring lobbyists and what bills they’re spending money on public record.
According to New York State’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Apple, Verizon, Toyota, the printer company Lexmark, heavy machinery company Caterpillar, phone insurance company Asurion, and medical device company Medtronic have spent money lobbying against the Fair Repair Act this year. The Consumer Technology Association, which represents thousands of electronics manufacturers, is also lobbying against the bill.
To be clear, each of the companies and trade organizations listed in this article—including Apple—lobbies on a variety of bills each year, and not all or even a majority of that money has been spent on right to repair legislation. But the records show a huge discrepancy between the political clout of large corporations lobbying against this legislation and that of their customers, who stand to benefit greatly from the bill.
Fair repair is one of just three bills Apple lobbied on in March and April
The records show that companies and organizations lobbying against right to repair legislation spent $366,634 to retain lobbyists in the state between January and April of this year. Thus far, the Digital Right to Repair Coalition—which is generally made up of independent repair shops with several employees—is the only organization publicly lobbying for the legislation. It has spent $5,042 on the effort, according to the records.
A retainer agreement between Apple and lobbying firm the Roffe Group notes that the law firm will “lobby Apple’s corporate issues, including but not limited to areas of environment, tax, and retail.” According to the contract, Apple pays Roffe Group $9,000 per month for its services. According to the records, fair repair (New York Senate bill 618A) is one of just three bills Apple lobbied on in March and April. The records—which as far as I can tell have not been published on a news site before—also show that Apple lobbied against similar legislation in 2016 and 2015.
As I mentioned, it’s no huge secret that Apple is lobbying against right to repair. In Nebraska, for instance, the sponsor of a right to repair bill said she was visited by Apple lobbyists who told her the state would turn into a “Mecca for bad actors” if the legislation passed. But with New York’s state records, we have proof that Apple’s fighting against repair around the country.
The important thing to keep in mind is that supporters of the bill have been very open about why they support the legislation. Meanwhile, the companies that are lobbying against it do not ever speak publicly about why they oppose fair repair laws. Both Apple and Roffe Group did not respond to my request for more information about the company’s specific position on right to repair legislation.