For nearly as long as electronics have existed, people have been in support of the right to repair them. If you own a device, you should have the option to manage and support it yourself. But, some companies have worked hard to make that difficult or as close to impossible as they can. One of the most notorious opponents of the concept of repairing your own device has been Apple. Now, the company is switching camps and throwing their support behind the Right to Repair rules.
What is the Right to Repair?
The Right to Repair is a movement that promotes the idea that people should be able to repair and maintain their own electronics with access to service manuals, diagnostic tools, parts, and software. This would mean that users have more control over their products and will be able to extend their lifespans by repairing them instead of being forced to buy new ones.
The Right to Repair Campaign has been gaining momentum for years. In the US, it has led to several states introducing legislation that would make it easier for consumers and independent repair shops to access parts and tools from manufacturers. This is a major victory for the movement as more people now have control over what happens with their electronics.
The most prominent legislation in the US came in Minnesota. The new law allows users and "unauthorized repairers" to acquire documentation, technical manuals, and parts to repair products that were previously unavailable to them. Now, California has begun to follow suit with SB 244, a Right to Repair law that would give the same capabilities to people in California.
In fact, California wants to expand its offerings beyond what Minnesota did. Minnesota only required manufacturers to offer parts for active devices. However, California's new law would require manufacturers to offer parts for devices under $100 for three years, and over $100 for seven years. That will be a big win for people who want to keep their expensive electronics running longer.
An abrupt about-face
One of the companies that has long led the charge against Right to Repair has been Apple. The company was the first to produce a feature phone without a user-replaceable battery, and when the iPhone moved into the smartphone category, they were unique there, as well. Over time, they have brought the consumer attack to other product categories, like laptops, tablets, and watches. Other manufacturers have followed Apple's lead, including Microsoft, Samsung, LG, and more.
But, despite more than a decade of creating all of the problems in the industry, Apple has seemingly changed its direction in an instant. In fact, the company sent a letter penned by D. Michael Foulkes to Senator Eggman, which was also received by The Verge, offering its conditional support for SB 244. In the letter, Foulkes writes,
California's final Right to Repair bill should balance device integrity, usability, and physical safety with the desire of consumers to be able to repair, rather than replace, a device when it needs repair. Legislation that correctly balances these concerns ensure that manufacturers are able to comply with the law while protecting consumers and their devices.
This change comes about likely because they see the winds of legislation changing and want to stay ahead of the curve. In Europe, the company has consistently fought against legislation that was destined to pass. It has created strife between the EU and Apple, which has caused the EU to actively antagonize the company. With all of the bad blood between the government, in both Red and Blue States, and Big Tech, it is not a huge surprise that Apple would tuck its tail and move with the tides.