Surprise! Apple Pens Letter Endorsing Right To Repair Bill

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Over the last couple of years, Apple has slowly walked the line on consumers' right to repair their own devices. It started out as a comically complex and expensive program with thousand-dollar deposits to get the company's blessed repair tools, but the company's current phone lineup is more repairable than it has been in a long time. What might be the biggest shock, though, is that the company has actually submitted a letter in support of California's proposed right-to-repair bill. 

While the idea of Apple supporting a right-to-repair bill might be surprising, California SB-244, the Right to Repair Act, is fairly sensible. Manufacturers of electronic devices and appliances with a wholesale price between $50 and $99.99 will be compelled to provide service and parts for a minimum of three years. That's extended to seven years for devices with higher wholesale prices, even if that exceeds the warranty of the device itself.

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Apple's repair documentation includes clear instructions and diagrams (image credit: Apple)

In its current form, SB-244 does, however, make exceptions for service parts that are no longer being produced by the part manufacturer. The bill also allows for exclusions of security and anti-theft protection measures, so for instance Face ID sensor replacement documentation isn't compulsory, even though the company does provide a way to replace the sensor. The bill also excludes game consoles, not that that applies to Apple. Still, the bill is a pretty big deal for folks who want to repair their own devices or businesses that want to provide their own repair services. 

It's that security exclusion that seems to have Apple dancing in the aisles. Cupertino did submit a letter to the California state legislature in support of the bill. The letter had been posted online, but has since been removed. However, in a statement to TechCrunch the company praised the bill outright. In a nod towards the exceptions in place for security measures, Apple says it "supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy."

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The 24" iMac is full of adhesive to cut through, but apparently Apple supports your right to repair it.

The company also goes on to say it "create(s) [its] products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options." That's kind of amusing since it has a semi-recent history of complaining about "non-genuine" parts from third-party repairs. Then again, the company's own parts program gives third-party repair centers the option to use genuine parts, so that kind of warning can be sidestepped anyway.

Still, SR-244 has additional provisions that might sway people away from third-party repairs, driving them back into the waiting arms of Apple. Non-authorized service centers would be required to provide written notice to customers to advise them of their non-authorized status prior to performing any repairs. Since third-party repairs can still be much cheaper than those provided by the manufacturer, it might not ward off too many customers. It does protect consumers, however, since they will be made aware of that fact. 

This bill also has potential to be a big win for customers in other states or indeed globally. If Apple (or any other manufacturer) doesn't force people to verify their California residency, any product with a wholesale cost of $100 or more could have documentation and parts available for seven years. That has the potential to keep e-waste out of landfills or recycling centers and save consumers money in the long run. Folks who are interested in perusing the bill in its entirety can do so on the California legislature's website.