Apple Lends Support to California ‘Right to Repair’ Bill

Brian Heater, reporting for TechCrunch:

In a surprise move, Apple this week penned a letter to California state senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, voicing support for SB 244, a “right to repair” bill currently making its way through Sacramento’s State Capitol building. [...] Apple has, of course, softened its stance on right to repair legislation in recent years, including last year’s addition of a Self Service Repair program. The offering, which was viewed by many as a preemptive measure against looming state and federal legislation, provides users with rental tools to repair iPhones and Macs at home.

In the letter, Apple expresses its support on the grounds of offering consumers the ability to repair their devices safely, without risking privacy or data issues. “Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy,” the company says in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We create our products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options.”

This sort of backing from a specific manufacturer is unusual — particularly from Apple. It is thus far the only major manufacturer to express its support for the bill in this manner. These kinds of statements are generally made through industry consortiums, such as TechNet.

I don’t find Apple’s support for this legislation surprising, but most people commenting on it do.

Dare Obasanjo:

This is less of a pivot and more of just accepting reality.

Apple pushing aesthetics such as no seams in their phones over consumer benefits like being able to replace your phone’s batteries has been deemed unacceptable by a number of governments including the EU.

Regulation is coming whether they like it or not, so they might as well get some positive PR for “supporting” the regulations.

Jason Koebler, writing at 404 Media:

Apple told a California legislator that it is formally supporting a right to repair bill in California, a landmark move that suggests big tech manufacturers understand they have lost the battle to monopolize repair, and need to allow consumers and independent repair shops to fix their own electronics.

Koebler’s use of “monopoly” hints at the assumption that authorized repairs are a profit center. That is true for some manufacturers in some industries. Koebler himself has copiously documented the saga with John Deere tractors. All the nonsense inkjet printer makers go through to try to keep people from using third-party replacement ink cartridges is another. That’s never been Apple’s reason for opposing these laws. Apple’s stance is more about control.

And I’d argue that Obasanjo is missing the possibility that Apple actually thinks California’s SB 244 is a well-written law. Would Apple prefer no such law at all? I think the answer is obviously yes. Providing all the necessary documentation, tools, and parts for every new device the company makes is a pain in Apple’s corporate ass, and I think that’s why Apple resisted such legislation. From their perspective any such law is an unnecessary annoyance. But it’s undeniably reasonable for there to be consumer protection laws, and if there are going to be Right to Repair laws that cover computing devices, those laws ought to be good ones. And the plain language of Apple’s letter is that the company thinks this is a good one.

I highly doubt we’re going to see any such letter from Apple to the EU endorsing their Digital Markets Act, the law that, among numerous other sweeping provisions, is poised to mandate sideloading on all phones. Apple continues to oppose the EU law requiring USB-C ports in all rechargeable devices, and that law is already passed. Apple has complied, begrudgingly, with the Netherlands’s rather specific regulations regarding dating apps and in-app payments — but they’ve issued no praise for the law.

If Apple says they support California’s SB 244, it probably just means they actually support it.

Thursday, 24 August 2023