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In federal briefing, Apple supports national repair law

A technician works on repairing an iPhone.

Apple previously opposed right-to-repair bills in various states, but has seemingly changed its tune in tandem with the passage of California’s law. | PK Studio/Shutterstock

Apple supports the concept of federal right-to-repair legislation, and it will voluntarily extend the requirements of California’s new repair law to the rest of the U.S., Apple’s repair boss said Tuesday. 

Speaking during the Oct. 24 broadcast alongside federal officials, including top Biden advisors, Brian Naumann of Apple said the tech behemoth supports a federal right-to-repair law as long as it balances repairability with durability, security and physical safety. 

“We think that there would be a real value in establishing a national standard,” said Naumann, who is a company vice president and is general manager of Apple’s repair business. 

Naumann said a federal law should maintain consumer privacy and data and security features, ensure transparency for consumers about the origin of parts used in repairs, and apply prospectively to allow manufacturers to focus on building new products that comply with the requirements, he said. 

Although they differ in important ways, including the products they cover, right-to-repair bills generally require OEMs to make available to independent repair shops and consumers the parts, tools and documentation needed to fix devices. 

Apple decided to support California’s recently signed repair bill, Senate Bill 244. That legislation requires manufacturers to make the repair resources, including software tools, available to independent shops and individual consumers on “fair and reasonable” terms starting July 1, 2024. The law covers TVs, radios, audio or video recorders or playback equipment, video cameras, computers, photocopiers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges, microwave ovens, washers, dryers, dishwashers, trash compactors and air conditioners. It excludes video game consoles and alarm systems.

OEMs aren’t required to provide any locks or security bypassess under the legal language, and repair shops must disclose to consumers whether they’re an OEM-authorized repair shop and whether they’re using any replacement parts not provided by the OEM. 

California’s was the fourth repair bill to be signed into law in the U.S., after Colorado, Minnesota and New York

During the event, Naumann also said Apple would voluntarily extend the provisions in California’s law to consumers throughout the U.S.

“We intend to honor California’s new repair provisions across the United States,” he said.

Multitude of speakers

A number of prominent names spoke during the web presentation, which the White House put out a briefing on. They covered efforts by the Biden administration and states to ensure independent repair shops have resources they need to extend the lives of electronics. 

They also called on Congress to implement national repair policy. A few bills touching on repair have been introduced in Congress. One that’s applicable to consumer electronics, the Fair Repair Act, was introduced in 2021 but has gone nowhere. 

Federal officials on Tuesday’s event included Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council; Tom Perez, senior advisor to President Biden and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Hannah Garden-Monheit, special assistant to the president for economic policy and director for competition council policy; Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the U.S. EPA. 

“Too often manufacturers make it difficult to access spare parts, manuals and tools necessary to make fixes,” Brainard said. “Consumers are compelled to go back to the dealer and pay the dealer’s price or to discard and replace the device entirely.” 

Khan said she has come to believe that security and safety arguments that have been pushed by producers opposed to right-to-repair laws are baseless. With Khan at the helm, the FTC in recent years has come down on the side of those arguing for broader access to repair resources.

Private company leaders on the online convening included Danny Wood, a Colorado farmer who shared his experience trying to fix a broken combine; Donald Jones, a senior vice president at Allstate insurance; and Heather Walch, CEO of electronics recycling and reuse nonprofit Repowered (formerly called Tech Dump). 

“Our professional repair technicians have only been able to repair around 10% of recycled electronics, due in part to a previous lack of access to tools, manuals and parts at fair and reasonable prices,” Walch said. “With greater access, we can increase that percentage significantly, taking electronic waste out of the environment and giving more options to consumers.” 

State officials on the broadcast included California state Rep. Buffy Wicks, a Democrat who sponsored SB 244; Colorado Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone, who has pushed wheelchair and farm equipment right-to-repair bills; Colorado Republican state Rep. Ron Weinberg, who also backed repair legislation for agricultural equipment; and Keith Ellison, Minnesota’s attorney general who pushed for the state’s repair bill. 

Ellison said Minnesota passed what he believes is the broadest right-to-repair bill in the nation, breaking what he called “monopolistic, anti-competitive control” by a handful of corporations.  He asked that any federal legislation not override or weaken Minnesota’s law, however. 

“Make sure that we’ve got a parallel, dual track, state and federal,” he said. “Teamwork makes dreamwork.”

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