Aug 7, 2019

"Right to repair" advocates lobby over antitrust concerns

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Advocates who say that companies like Apple lock users into costly repair arrangements are trying to influence a growing debate in Washington over whether giant tech firms have become monopolies.

Why it matters: The issue has gotten less airtime than concerns about Apple's iOS App Store, but it's another possible point of scrutiny for regulators as they look at broader concerns over Big Tech's market power.

Flashback: For years, activists for a so-called "right to repair" have raised concerns about technology companies making it impossible for customers to go to anyone other than the manufacturer if they wanted to get their gear repaired, or restricting repairs to merchants that have the manufacturer's blessing.

  • Apple has become one flashpoint for the issue, given the prevalence of its smartphones.

Driving the news: In letters and testimony submitted to the record for a House Judiciary Committee hearing, right to repair advocates pressed their case that restricting who gets to repair a device is a way of gaining a competitive edge.

  • "Repair hurts sales," of new phones, said Nathan Proctor, who leads the Right to Repair campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "Apple has an incentive to restrict repair of their devices."
  • In a different filing, Gay Gordon-Byrne, the executive director of the Right to Repair Coalition, said that while one option would be for right to repair advocates to go to court, the coalition's members "will be best served through legislation" addressing the issue, since litigation is time-consuming and expensive.

What they're saying: ""We want to make sure our customers always have confidence their products will be repaired safely and correctly, and in a way that supports recycling," said an Apple spokesperson in a statement. "We are continually growing our network of certified technicians and most recently announced that any Best Buy store in the U.S. is now an authorized service provider."

The big picture: The House Judiciary Committee antitrust subcommittee's inquiry into the market power of major tech platforms is one of many such proceedings in Washington.

  • The Federal Trade Commission launched a tech task force and last week, the Department of Justice said it was carrying out its own wide-ranging investigation.
  • Competitors and critics of the tech companies have the opportunity to shape the probes, steering regulators towards their specific concerns.

Go deeper

Tech regulators put to the test

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The backlash against giant tech companies is stressing the public institutions tasked with examining their power, as participants, observers and critics question whether regulators have the skill, will and authority to check corporate forces.

Why it matters: The machinery of antitrust regulation will process the broader conversation about tech's role in society through the mill of American politics and law — and some wonder whether it's up to the task.

Go deeperArrowAug 16, 2019

Apple sets Sept. 10 for new iPhone debut

Apple headquarters. Photo: Michael Short/Getty Images

Apple is expected to introduce a new crop of iPhones at a media event it has just scheduled for Sept. 10.

  • "By innovation only,” reads the scant text in this year's invite for the event, which will take place in the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple headquarters.

Why it matters: Both Apple and the broader smartphone market have seen growth slow, adding importance to whatever Apple has in store for this year's model. Reports suggest additional cameras could be among the key selling points.

Keep ReadingArrowAug 29, 2019

Apple apologizes over Siri recordings

Screenshot from Apple.com

Apple on Wednesday apologized for how it handled the audio files when customers accessed its Siri assistant, and announced a series of changes aimed at better safeguarding customer privacy.

Why it matters: In recent weeks it has come to light that several of the major tech companies, including Apple, Google and Amazon, had been letting workers access a portion of virtual assistant conversations as part of their efforts to assess and improve quality.

Go deeperArrowAug 28, 2019