After years of pushing back against bills that would grant consumers the right to repair electronics, Apple announced it supports an amended version of one such bill currently in play in California.
Apple said in a statement that SB 244 strikes the right balance between “consumer choice and reliable repairs” while protecting privacy, data security and OEMs’ intellectual property.
“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,” Apple’s statement in support of the bill noted.
SB 244, authored by Sen. Susan Eggman, would require manufacturers to make tools and parts available to repair facilities and owners of certain products on fair and reasonable terms. The California Assembly is now debating the bill after it passed the Senate in June, with a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee expected soon.
Repair advocates lauded Apple’s move. A joint statement from CALPIRG, Californians Against Waste and iFixit noted, “For years, Apple has been one of the most visible opponents of repair access, lobbying against giving consumers and independent repair shops what they need to fix devices. However, with the Right to Repair movement gaining recognition and support – and leading to laws in other states – Apple has reversed course.”
Versions of SB 244 have been introduced in California for at least five years, the press release stated, with many dying after “intense industry lobbying efforts against their passage.”
Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste, said in the release that the support of an industry leader such as Apple carries “a lot of weight in the halls of the capitol.”
“It’s inspiring to see that Senator Susan Eggman’s tenacity, coupled with pressure from the passionate community of repair advocates, was able to get a behemoth the size of Apple to not only change their longstanding policy but to also buck the rest of the industry,” he added. “The Right to Repair train is leaving the station, and it’s time for the rest of Silicon Valley to hop on!”
Other advocates were more skeptical of the sudden about-face. Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, said in an emailed statement that the letter “might be a PR tactic to spin a losing position into a win.”
Gordon-Byrne also noted that many other large OEMs and groups had already announced they were either neutral on the bill or in support of it, and the tide is shifting in favor of consumers’ right to repair goods.
“It was our triumph in states like New York, Minnesota and Colorado that forced manufacturers to drop their opposition and focus on compliance,” Gordon-Byrne added. “Frankly, California may have passed this law even without Apple’s endorsement.”