Right-to-repair advocates have long stated that passing repair laws in individual states was worth the uphill battle. Once enough states demanded that manufacturers make parts, repair guides, and diagnostic tools available, few companies would want to differentiate their offerings and policies and would instead pivot to national availability.
On Tuesday, Apple did exactly that. Following the passage of California’s repair bill that Apple supported, requiring seven years of parts, specialty tools, and repair manual availability, Apple announced Tuesday that it would back a similar bill on a federal level. It would also make its parts, tools, and repair documentation available to both non-affiliated repair shops and individual customers, “at fair and reasonable prices.”
“We intend to honor California’s new repair provisions across the United States,” said Brian Naumann, Apple’s vice president for service and operation management, at a White House event Tuesday.
Apple, which had for years opposed right-to-repair laws under the auspices of security and physical safety concerns, has recently offered both an independent repair program for unaffiliated shops and a self-service repair program for individuals.
Apple’s pledge was part of a White House push on right-to-repair issues. The Biden administration has pushed right-to-repair needs as a consumer issue, focusing on raised costs and stifling small businesses. Nationwide repair bills have been introduced before but have yet to gain much momentum. Apple’s support for such a bill could have an impact, especially if other manufacturers follow suit in matching their national policy to California’s law.
“I think most OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] will realize they can save themselves a lot of trouble by making parts, tools, and other requirements of state laws already in NY, MN, CA, and CO available nationally,” wrote Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association, to Ars. “If they try to differentiate between selling one type of product in New York and a different one in neighboring Pennsylvania—the border is porous, and they will only create more complexity in their distribution network than they would gain.”
Gordon-Byrne noted that firms like HP, Google, Samsung, and Lenovo have pledged to comply with repair rules on a national level. The US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) communicated a similarly hopeful note in its response to Tuesday’s event, noting that “Apple makes a lot of products, and its conduct definitely influences other manufacturers.”
At the same time, numerous obstacles to repair access remain in place through copyright law—”Which we hope will be high on an agenda in the IP subcommittee this session,” Gordon-Byrne wrote.
Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of sustainability for iFixit, a parts vendor and repair advocate, suggested that Apple’s pledge to extend California’s law on a national level is “a strategic move.” “Apple likely hopes that they will be able to negotiate out the parts of the Minnesota bill they don’t like,” Chamberlain wrote in an email, pointing specifically to the “fair and reasonable” parts provisioning measure that could preclude Apple’s tendency toward pairing parts to individual devices.
“[I]t’s vital to get bulletproof parts pairing prohibitions passed in other states in 2024,” Chamberlain wrote. “Independent repair and refurbishment depend on parts harvesting.”
Ars reached out to Apple for comment on this story and will update the post with any new information.
Disclosure: Kevin Purdy previously worked for iFixit. He has no financial interest in the company.