Connectivity

Apple is the ‘right to repair’ movement’s most surprising suitor

A refresher on Apple’s fraught relationship with at-home fixes.
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· 3 min read

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California’s proposed “right to repair” law has a new and perhaps unexpected backer: Apple.

The iPhone (and, let’s not forget, augmented reality headset) maker reportedly sent a letter of support to the author of Senate Bill 244, which would require electronics manufacturers to allow consumers and third-party businesses to repair damaged devices.

For products priced at $100 or more—that’s pretty much everything Apple makes—the proposed law requires manufacturers to continue to provide parts and tools for repair for at least seven years after the product’s last manufacturing date. Great news for your dad, who’s still using an iPhone 6S.

Apple’s letter comes as something of a surprise, because the company long fought against efforts to democratize repairs, including lobbying against bills in Nebraska, New York state, and even previously in California.

The arguments Apple has raised in favor of repair monopoly have been varied, including that do-it-yourself consumers could hurt themselves, and that a free-for-all repair landscape would become a “mecca for hackers.”

But Apple has faced mounting pressure, and has softened its stance in recent years. Here’s a non-exhaustive recap:

  • In the summer of 2019, Apple announced it would let independent repair shops use Apple components to fix out-of-warranty devices, as long as they employ technicians who’ve taken an Apple-provided course.
  • That September, House Judiciary leaders launched an antitrust probe into tech giants including Apple, and the chair of the antitrust subcommittee sent Apple a list of questions including several related to the company’s repairs policy.
  • In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission voted to beef up its enforcement against repair restrictions.
  • Later that year, a group of shareholders filed a resolution asking Apple to reconsider its repair policies, arguing that doing so could “mitigate regulatory and reputational risks and bolster the company’s ambitious climate commitments.”
  • In April 2022, Apple launched its DIY repair service in the US, and began selling and renting some iPhone components and tools to consumers.

So, why is the tech giant supporting a new repair rule in its home state of California?

It could be that Apple is reading the room: Right-to-repair efforts have been gaining momentum in recent years, despite forceful opposition from industry stakeholders. Colorado, New York, and Minnesota all passed legislation this year, and a right-to-repair proposal is making its way through the European Union’s legislative process. A separate proposal requires that portable electronics have batteries that users can replace themselves.

While Apple’s support has certainly caused a buzz, California’s own right-to-repair bill still has a ways to go before it becomes law. It passed the Assembly Appropriations committee September 1 and is awaiting a full assembly vote before heading to the governor’s desk.

Keep up with the innovative tech transforming business

Tech Brew keeps business leaders up-to-date on the latest innovations, automation advances, policy shifts, and more, so they can make informed decisions about tech.