Pressured By 'Right To Repair' Movement, Apple Will Sell Parts To Independent Repair Shops
from the monopolizing-repair dept
Apple has never looked too kindly upon users actually repairing their own devices. The company’s ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary. As are the company’s efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can’t be refurbished and re-used), and Apple’s often comical attacks on essential right to repair legislation, which only sprung up after companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony, John Deere, and others created a grass-roots counter-movement via their attempts to monopolize repair.
The motivation for these behaviors is obvious: if users are repairing or recycling their iDevices, that means fewer device sales and more customers wandering outside of Apple’s ecosystem. Apple routinely obfuscates this obvious self interest under claims that it’s exclusively worried about consumer safety and security, like that time it claimed that Nebraska would become a “mecca for hackers” (oh no!) if the state embraced legislation protecting a consumer’s right to repair their own devices.
But the right to repair movement finally appears to have driven some actual change at the company. Apple announced this week it would be providing parts to independent repair shops for the first time in the company’s history, provided the repair technicians are certified. The program creates an entirely new “authorized independent repair” program, but for the moment it only applies to out-of-warranty iPhone repairs in the US, and it’s not clear yet how easy it will be to gain Apple’s official approval.
In a company statement, Apple implies the decision was driven by a simple concern for consumer welfare:
“To better meet our customers? needs, we?re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorized Service Provider network,? said Jeff Williams, Apple?s chief operating officer. ?When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.”
Apple is, of course, hoping to preempt proposed legislation in nearly 20 states that would open the flood gates to consumer and independent repair, putting an end to the company’s dreams of a repair monopoly. As such, some worried that Apple was attempting to co-opt the movement by creating this new program that it still at least has some degree of control over. Others were skeptical that Apple would just reject a wide swath of applicants and make the program far more restrictive than the announcement would leave you to believe:
Call me skeptical. Apple gets all the benefit of appearing repair-friendly while reserving the right to reject every applicant. In other words – Apple decides who has the right to repair.
— Adam Minter (@AdamMinter) August 29, 2019
Still, the fact that Apple is even doing this speaks to the incredible work being done by right to repair advocates, who’ve increasingly been successful in pushing this subject into the mainstream. That said, given Apple’s history, it makes sense to not give Apple too many pats on the back until it’s clear the program isn’t rife with obnoxious restrictions and caveats.