Apple Emerges As An Unlikely Ally In Push For Federal Right To Repair Legislation

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Despite consumers complaining that Apple devices are a pain in the neck to repair, Apple has announced that it will back a US right-to-repair bill. The bill is part of President Biden's attempt to promote competition and end "junk fees" and other actions that increase the price of products for customers.

Apple's decision to back the right-to-repair bill is in stark contrast with the position it seemingly took at the start of this year. That was when New York became the first state to pass a version of the act that was gutted due to big tech, like Apple, opposing it. What ended up passing was what some described as "functionally toothless." However, now it seems Apple is getting on the right-to-repair bandwagon.

On Tuesday, Apple reported that it would make parts, tools, and documentation needed to repair its iPhones and Macs. The tech giant said it would make those available to independent repair shops and consumers nationwide. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hopes Apple's actions will persuade more big tech companies to follow suit.

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"We've heard from health care workers and hospitals worried that they would be unable to fix a ventilator because the manufacturer was seeking to deny access to repair kit," remarked FTC Commission Chair Lina Khan. Khan added that restrictive practices that are implemented industry-wide only raise the cost for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunities, and create unnecessary electronic waste.

Apple began distributing parts and manuals to a few independent repair shops in 2019. The Cupertino-based company has now backed the right-to-repair legislation in its home state of California. That legislation requires companies to provide repair shops and consumers access to parts, tools and manuals needed for repairs, all at a fair and reasonable price.

"We intend to honor California's new repair provisions across the United States," explained Brian Naumann, Apple's Vice President for Service and Operations. "Apple also believes that consumers and businesses would benefit from a national law that balances repairability with product integrity, usability, and physical safety."

Others are applauding the move by Apple, as the ability for consumers to repair their own devices could save American consumers $49.6 billion annually. It could also reduce electronic waste in the country by nearly 7 million tons per year.

However, there are those that are leery at Apple's sudden change of heart. Nathan Proctor of US PIRG stated in an interview, "It's really going to depend on people's experience in the real world - that's what we care about. We're going to keep watch-dogging Apple and other companies."