WASHINGTON: Apple on Tuesday will announce plans to make parts, tools and documentation needed to fix its iPhones and computers available to independent repair shops and consumers nationwide, the White House said.
The company will also now support a national US right-to-repair bill, the White House said, a major step to reduce costs for consumers. Apple was for years criticised by consumer advocates who said its sleek devices were difficult and expensive to fix and that the company provided little support for repairs.
In recent years, Apple executives have begun touting the longevity and resale value of its devices while making it easier to fix them and to access spare parts.
Apple started distributing parts and manuals to some independent repair shops in 2019. In August, Apple came out in support of right-to-repair legislation in its home state of California.
Apple’s support for a federal bill that might be modelled after the California bill comes as part of a broader push by President Joe Biden to promote competition and crack down on so-called junk fees and other actions that increase prices for consumers.
The latest effort is aimed at giving consumers more control over fixing what they own, from tractors to smart phones.
National Economic Council director Lael Brainard made the announcement in remarks prepared for a White House event later Tuesday focused on the so-called “right to repair,” calling on Congress to pass legislation requiring such action across the country.
Brainard said California, Colorado, New York and Minnesota had already passed right to repair laws, and 30 other states had introduced similar legislation.
She said Apple supported a nationwide law and had endorsed the California law — which requires companies to make the parts, tools and documentation needed for repairs of consumer electronic devices and appliances available to independent repair shops and consumers at fair and reasonable prices — and would do the same nationwide.
Manufacturers too often made it difficult to access spare parts, manuals, and tools necessary to fix items from smartphones to wheelchairs to farm equipment, Brainard said, forcing consumers to pay high repair costs, or discard and replace the device.
Repairing consumer electronics devices instead could save American consumers US$49.6 billion annually, Brainard said, and reduce the US’s nearly seven million tonnes of annual electronic waste, while boosting small independent repair shops.
While Apple has provided spare parts to repair shops since 2019, the California bill also requires it to supply diagnostic tools to those shops as well. Apple said it plans to follow the same model nationally as it does in California.
But some consumer advocates reacted to Tuesday’s news with reservations because Apple’s embrace of repairs has often come with caveats.
Nathan Proctor, who leads right-to-repair campaign efforts for advocacy group called US PIRG, said Apple’s earlier efforts required repair shops to sign restrictive contracts that prevented them from keeping a stockpile of spare parts on hand for quicker walk-in repairs, making it hard to compete with Apple’s own repair services.
Proctor said his group will follow the details of any federal legislation that emerges.
“It’s really going to depend on people’s experience in the real world – that’s what we care about,” Proctor said. “We’re going to keep watch-dogging Apple and the other companies.”