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Apple, Long A Critic Of Right To Repair, Comes Out In Support Of California Bill

by Thorin Klosowski
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Reprinted under Creative Commons License

Apple has announced a surprising stance in support of California's Right to Repair Act (S.B. 244). This is a sign that the public's strong support of the right to repair has forced Apple to change its position, and now is the time for you to help keep the pressure on lawmakers to get the Right to Repair Act passed in California.

Apple's about-face came in a letter to the bill's sponsor, Senator Susan Eggman. Apple's letter marks a significant change from where Apple was on the issue in the past, when reporting in 2017 showed that lobbyists associated with Apple (and other tech companies) fought against the "Fair Repair Act" in New York, and again against the "Digital Fair Repair" Act in 2022. In a letter to New York Governor Hochul, Apple flat out denied the benefits of the bill for consumer choice, safety, and protection of the environment, while raising the specter of dire consequences if others were allowed to compete with them in the repair market.

But in a major shift in policy, Apple says in its letter that it supports the California bill as it stands, as long as it still includes a requirement for repair shops to disclose the use of third party or used parts, and doesn't allow those shops to turn off certain remote locks. Apple has made small concessions to the repair movement with moves like its 2021 launch of its Self Service Repair program, which allows you to order repair parts directly from Apple, but direct support for a bill is a major change for the company.

S.B. 244 raises the bar from right to repair laws recently passed in Minnesota and New York. If passed, S.B. 244 goes further than previous laws by setting a time span requiring manufacturers to make repair parts, manuals, and diagnostic tools available to everyone for three years after the last date of manufacture for products between $50 and $99.99, and seven years for products over $100. It also allows a city, county, or state to bring a case in superior court, as opposed to other laws that can only be enforced by the state attorney general.

This week, supporters assembled a pile of nearly 250 pounds of e-waste—244 pounds, specifically, in honor of the bill—to show how much e-waste is generated every five seconds.

S.B. 244 is not perfect. It doesn't cover cars, farm equipment, medical devices, industrial equipment, or video game consoles, and there are good reasons why independent repair shops need to be able to work with devices' security systems. If it does pass, there will still be work to do in the future.

The right to repair is an important part of the rights that a device owner should be able to exercise. In addition to repair, we have long fought for the rights of security researchers, consumer protection groups, and other device owners to be able to understand, control, and improve upon the technology they rely upon every day.

Apple's support is a big deal, but the fight is not over. If you're a Californian, you can help! The bill is before the Assembly Appropriations committee, which is its last hurdle before heading to the floor and, hopefully, to the governor's desk for a signature. Please take action to tell your Assemblymember that you support the "Right to Repair" Act today.

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