In a major U-turn, Apple endorsed a Right to Repair bill in California. This surprising move comes after years of the company fighting and delaying similar bills in various states.
Apple sent California state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman a letter Tuesday endorsing the SB-244 Right to Repair Act — with certain stipulations.
California’s Right to Repair Act is expansive
If passed, the law would give Californians the right to fix various consumer electronics and home appliances on their own. Manufacturers would be required to provide consumers with the necessary tools and spare parts to carry out such repairs.
As opposed to Right to Repair Acts passed in Minnesota and New York, California’s bill would set a term for the availability of parts. For products between $50 and $99.99, parts and tools must be available for at least three years. And for devices that cost more than $100, the required repair tools would be available for seven years.
California’s Right to Repair Act would require a different enforcement method as well. Companies violating the law could be dragged to superior court. If found guilty, they could be fined $1,000 a day for a first violation and $2,000 a day for a second. For subsequent breaches, the fine would increase to $5,000 per day.
In a post revealing Apple’s support for the Right to Repair Act in California, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said, “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.”
This is the first time Apple has supported the Right to Repair Act
Apple said in its letter backing California’s Right to Repair Act (.pdf) that it supports the bill because the legislation would protect both customers and manufacturers. This includes ensuring that third-party repair shops reveal the use of non-genuine or used parts and that manufacturers do not have to allow repair providers to disable device security features.
Here’s a section of the letter that outlines Apple’s conditions for backing the bill:
We support SB 244 because it includes requirements that protect individual users’ safety and security, as well as product manufacturers’ intellectual property. We will continue to support the bill, so long as it continues to provide protections for customers and innovators, including:
- Assurances that the bill would not threaten consumer safety and data security by requiring that manufacturers allow repair providers to disable device security features, many of which have been requested by law enforcement agencies and required by law to thwart theft,
- Focus on requiring manufacturers obligations to provide the documentation, tools, and parts to enable the repairs performed by authorized repair channels, as opposed to a broader undefined scope of repairs which may compromise consumer physical safety, repair reliability, and device integrity,
- Requirements that repair providers disclose the use of non-genuine or used parts, and
- Prospective application that would allow manufacturers to focus on building new products that comply with the proposal.
California’s final Right to Repair bill should balance device integrity, usability, and physical safety with the desire of consumers to be able to repair, rather than replace, a device when it needs repair. Legislation that correctly balances these concerns will ensure that manufacturers are able to comply with the law while protecting consumers and their devices.
Apple’s Self Service Repair Program was a first step
It is likely that Apple’s Self Service Repair program, which launched in the United States in 2022, meets the guidelines of SB-244. Through its program, Apple sells parts and rents tools so users can repair their own broken devices.
The Apple Self Service Repair program started with iPhones, before adding MacBooks and Mac desktops late last year. Apple also offers a complete Self Service Repair tool kit, available to rent for $49 per week. It’s not for the timid, though, as Cult of Mac wrote at the time: “You should think hard before choosing this option, though. The kit comes in two cases, and one weighs 43 pounds and the other weighs 36 pounds. Fortunately, the rental fee includes shipping costs.”
Apple presumably likes the California bill because it puts the onus on repair shops to use genuine repair parts. This likely goes a long way toward explaining why Apple now supports the legislation after years of lobbying against it.
“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,” Apple told TechCrunch in a statement. “We create our products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options.”