Now that Apple supports Right to Repair, everyone else should, too

Apple has lent its support to a new California law that aims to make it easier for people to fix their own devices.

Apple, iOS, environment, law, repair, right to repair, climate change

In a move with implications for consumers and for large iPhone, iPad, and/or Mac deployments in business and education, Apple is backing a new California law that aims to make it easier for people to fix their own devices.

Apple supports SB 244

In a nutshell, Apple has officially endorsed a proposed Right to Repair Bill that’s moving toward approval in California. The company’s support for the bill may hint at a change in its attitude to self-repair.

Traditionally, Apple didn’t support Right to Repair. But after consumer advocacy campaigns and a little regulatory investigation, the company opened up to self-repair with last year’s launch of its Self Service Repair program. These days it offers self-repair kits, instructions, and official Apple components customers can use to fix IT — but only for a fee and only if you know what you’re doing.

As I see it, the measure Apple now supports, (SB 244), echoes Apple’s current repair promise. If it passes, it will give Californians the right to repair their devices.

In support of that right, manufacturers will be expected to provide parts, tools, and repair diagnostics consumers — and larger enterprises — can use to fix their devices. In other words, that's roughly what Apple is already doing. In theory, this will foster a more competitive market for repair.

Right to Repair

Commenting on these reports, Apple told TechCrunch:

“Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy.”

The company stressed that it creates products that last and pointed out that if they ever need to be repaired, “Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options.”

In a statement, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens observed:

“Apple’s endorsement of the Right to Repair Bill in California is a watershed moment for consumer rights. It feels like the Berlin Wall of tech repair monopolies is starting to crumble, brick by brick.”

How it works

What’s different about California’s approach is that the legislation lays out ground rules to define the terms of repair support from manufacturers. For example, manufacturers selling products that cost more than $99.99 must provide repair materials for seven years, while items costing less need to be supported for up to three. The idea is that product repair support is available after the warranty period. There’s also a schedule of fines, so a company that violates the law three times will be fined $5,000 per violation per day.

Within the context of Apple’s wider support for environmental sustainability, it feels that support for consumer repairs was always going to come. All the same, the decision likely reflects internal discussion within the company.

When it comes to making products more sustainable, Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for environment, policy, and social initiatives, recently said: “I like to remind people we couldn’t just set a goal, we had to come up with a roadmap, just like we have a roadmap for every product that Apple eventually releases.”

After all, the company’s most recent Environmental Responsibility report continues to stress how Apple wants to ensure all its products are carbon neutral by 2030, and one way to get there is to make products easier to repair, lengthening useful life while creating solid plans for recycling once they do expire.

Repair is climate friendly

“We design our products to be used daily with minimal need for repair. But if a repair is needed, customers should have easy access to convenient, quality repair services to get their product back up and running as quickly as possible,” the report explained.

At present, product use accounts for 24% of the company’s carbon footprint, so Apple knows it must do all it can to whittle that down — and giving people tools to repair their devices helps towards that.

While some may argue that the company previously prioritized creation of high-tech devices that were hard to repair, its future now seems likely to include more focus on making systems that are easier to repair — though only with the correct tools.

Apple’s support changes the game

With this in mind, it seems likely that Apple's support for the Californian bill will be reflected in the company’s actions elsewhere across the value chain.

Its support also suggests other consumer electronics manufacturers have little choice but to fall in line. In the future, consumer and business users will expect device repair, even if the process is complex and requires special tools. And not just in California.

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