Apple said on Tuesday that it would expand its device repair program across the nation as it threw its support for President Joe Biden’s push for federal right-to-repair law.
The issue of whether a person could repair their own devices, whether its an iPhone or a John Deere tractor trailer, bubbled up over the last few years as consumer advocates criticized companies that required expensive repair services.
Apple had long been criticized for its sleek, but difficult to repair, iPhones and Mac computers, and fought the idea that third-party services could adequately fix its products, citing safety concerns. But the company changed its tune in 2019 and expanded its independent repair provider program as the legislative momentum moved the other way. The company is already required to provide parts, tools and information for consumer to make their own repairs as part of a California law that passed last month.
Apple’s presence at a White House event to tout the benefits of a universal right-to-repair law means a lot because of the visibility of the company and the popularity of its products. The right-to-repair issue is one of a number of so-called “junk fees” — everything from airline seat charges to extra hotel taxes — that the Biden administration has targeted as a detriment to consumers.
“Apple also supports a uniform federal law that balances repairability with product integrity, data security, usability and physical safety,” said Brian Naumann, vice president of Apple’s repair services business.
In addition, he said he intended California’s right to repair law across the U.S.
Apple isn’t the only company that had previously been criticized for the practice. John Deere in January started giving customers the right to fix their own equipment, even if some consumer advocates remain skeptical.
Companies all too often will use a whole set of restricitive practices including limiting the availability of parts and tools, using exclusionary designs and product decisions that make independent repair less safe and making assertions of patent and trademark rights that are overly broad,” Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Lina Khan said at the event. “These types of restrictions can significantly raise cost for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency.”
Apple’s argument is that a single, consistent law would be easier to follow than a patchwork of different state laws, all addressing the right-to-repair issue in different ways.
Naumann touted the 100,000 active technicians in its network of repair provider program.
He also advocated for the law to maintain privacy, data and security device features to thwart theft, to better inform consumers about the parts used in a repair, and for it to be clearly written so manufacturers understand how to comply.
Khan noted that the stakes are higher than just whether your phone works.
“We’ve heard about how people’s right to repair their own products can be a matter of life and death,” Khan said. “We’ve heard from healthcare workers in hospitals worried that they would be unable to fix a ventilator because a manufacturer was seeking to deny access to repair it.”