Watershed moment? Apple adds its full support to California’s right to repair bill, reversing years of opposition to such legislation
Apple has lent its support to the growing momentum behind the ‘right to repair’ movement around the world.
In a surprising intervention, Apple has written a letter to officially endorse Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman’s Right to Repair Bill in California.
The bill is known as SB 244, and it enhances California’s warranty law and secures Californians’ right to repair a wide range of consumer electronics and home appliances. The bill is said to go further than similar legislation passed in Minnesota and New York.
Right to repair
Apple’s u-turn was noted by repair and teardown specialist iFixit, which has famously clashed with Apple in previous years over the road blocks implemented by the iPhone maker and other manufacturers, trying to stop third parties from repairing their devices.
“Apple’s endorsement of the Right to Repair Bill in California is a watershed moment for consumer rights,” said iFixit’s CEO Kyle Wiens. “It feels like the Berlin Wall of tech repair monopolies is starting to crumble, brick by brick.”
The repair specialist noted that even before Apple’s endorsement, SB 244 has moved further in the legislature than any previous Right to Repair bill in California. It pointed out that Senator Eggman has been working on the issue since 2018, but none of those bills have previously crossed from one legislative chamber to another – until this year.
According to iFixit, California’s bill goes farther than laws that passed in Minnesota and New York, by setting a term for availability of parts and updates. For products that cost between $50 and $99.99, parts, tools, and documentation will have to be available in California for three years after the last date of product manufacture.
For products costing over $99.99, repair materials will have to be available for seven years. These terms will ensure that manufacturers can’t drop product repair support at the end of a product’s warranty period, iFixit noted.
And it is seems that SB 244 has a good chance of becoming law, as it “passed the Senate 38–0 and has been sailing through the Assembly unopposed.”
It will get its final hearing next week and if it passes, it will go to the Assembly floor, which is the final legislative hurdle before the governor’s signature.
Change of heart
iFixit noted that Apple’s endorsement is a critical victory for consumer rights and sustainability.
“Today, Apple writes in support of SB 244, and urges members of the California legislature to pass the bill as currently drafted,” Apple wrote in its letter.
“Creating long-lasting products requires an approach that combines durable hardware materials and designs, ongoing software updates that unlock new features and functionality, and when needed – high-quality repair services,” Apple added.
But Apple has not always been so supportive.
According to iFixit, “Apple has a long track record of opposing this environmental legislation, going so far as telling lawmakers in Nebraska that Right to Repair legislation would turn the state into a ‘Mecca for Hackers.’”
“It’s not just about providing parts and tools for repairs; it’s about empowering consumers to make environmentally responsible choices,” said iFixit’s Director of Sustainability, Liz Chamberlain. “Right to Repair has been building momentum in Big Tech’s backyard. It’s about time Apple opens the front door.”
But to be fair has been undergoing a change of heart for a number of years now.
In August 2019 for example, Apple confirmed it would, for the first time ever, supply genuine parts to independent repair shops.
Then in November 2021 Apple confirmed plans to give technically-minded customers the ability to repair their own devices. Repairable items include the display, battery, and camera.
Five months later in April 2022, Apple opened up its Self Service Repair Store to US customers only, offering more than 200 individual parts and tools (torque drivers, repair trays, display, battery presses etc).
In December 2022 Apple opened its Self Service Repair Store in UK and Europe, so users could purchase genuine Apple parts to repair an iPhone themselves.
Meanwhile countries have expanded their own right to repair regulations.
In July 2021 the UK government introduced new legislation which obliges manufacturers to make spare parts available to consumers so appliances can be fixed.
The European Parliament has also voted in favour of establishing stronger “right to repair” laws that will ensure that goods can be repaired for up to 10 years, in order to to reduce electrical waste.
Europe had already passed the Right to Repair ecodesign regulations in 2019, which currently cover appliances and will soon cover smartphones and tablets.
Another piece of EU legislation will require that manufacturers of all kinds of portable products make batteries user-replaceable by 2027.
On the other side of the pond, three US states in the past year have passed Right to Repair legislation: New York passed a bill covering consumer electronics; Colorado passed bills covering powered wheelchairs and farm equipment; and Minnesota passed a bill covering electronics and appliances.
In October 2021, with the support of the Biden Administration, the US Copyright Office expanded its legal shield to fix tech goods.