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In an unexpected move, Apple, once viewed as a staunch opponent of the right-to-repair movement, has now declared its backing for federal legislation supporting consumers’ repair rights. This seismic shift in stance was announced by Apple’s Vice President, Brian S. Naumann, during a recent online event on right-to-repair, hosted by the Biden Administration.
Naumann’s statement resonated with California’s recently enacted right-to-repair law, emphasizing the need for clear federal guidelines that facilitate product repair without compromising data security or device integrity. He emphasized, “Apple supports a uniform federal law that balances repairability with product integrity, data security, usability, and physical safety.”
The push for right-to-repair legislation has gained momentum in recent years, with lawmakers introducing bills aimed at enhancing the repairability of various consumer products, from electronics to automotive and agricultural equipment. As of now, four states have successfully enacted their own local laws, and both the Biden White House and the Federal Trade Commission have voiced support for these efforts on both state and federal levels.
Apple, however, isn’t merely awaiting congressional decisions. Naumann announced that the company intends to adopt provisions from California’s pioneering right-to-repair legislation for its customers across the nation. This move is poised to simplify repairs for millions of Apple users, extending to iPhones, MacBooks, and other devices.
Apple also outlined its vision for an ideal federal right-to-repair law. Naumann emphasized the importance of safeguarding consumer privacy and device security features and ensuring transparency about the components used in repairs. If implemented effectively, such a law could lead to cost savings for consumers, a reduction in electronic waste, and a streamlined approach compared to the current state-by-state patchwork.
However, Apple remains committed to its goal of minimizing repairs altogether. Naumann underscored, “The very best repair is the repair that isn’t needed.” The company’s focus remains on designing products for longevity through enhanced durability and sustained support for devices.
This transformation in Apple’s approach to right-to-repair marks a significant departure from its prior stance, where it actively lobbied against emerging right-to-repair legislation. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and a prominent advocate for such laws, once labeled Apple as the “biggest opponent” to legislative efforts nationwide. This narrative began to shift in 2021 when Apple introduced its Self-Service Repair program, allowing customers to purchase parts and tools for DIY repairs. The company went further by providing repair technicians with comprehensive toolkits.
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Nonetheless, endorsing accountable legislation is a different league altogether. Earlier this year, Apple startled many by championing California’s Right to Repair Act, considered a landmark in consumer electronics repair legislation. Starting in July 2024, manufacturers will be legally obliged to provide consumers and independent repair shops in the state with access to repair parts, tools, documentation, and software. Advocates hail this law as the most extensive and consumer-friendly right-to-repair legislation to date.
With Apple’s newfound vocal support for federal law, it joins a limited group of device manufacturers willing to take this stand. The timing is strategic, considering the surge of right-to-repair laws already in effect or under consideration across various states. As more states move towards embracing these laws, a coherent national framework becomes increasingly appealing for businesses.