In a surprise move, Apple this week penned a letter to California state senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, voicing support for SB 244, a “right to repair” bill currently making its way through Sacramento’s State Capitol building.
Apple has, of course, softened its stance on right to repair legislation in recent years, including last year’s addition of a Self-Service Repair program. The offering, which was viewed by many as a preemptive measure against looming state and federal legislation, provides users with rental tools to repair iPhones and Macs at home.
SB 244 is fairly expansive; it includes consumer electronics (phones, laptops, etc.) and appliances (microwaves, washing machines, etc.), though a few exceptions have been carved out, including game consoles and alarm systems. The rational for those appear to be piracy and security, respectively. It shares a good deal (including the proposed name) with the Right to Repair Act, which went into effect in Minnesota this May.
In the letter, Apple expresses its support on the grounds of offering consumers the ability to repair their devices safely, without risking privacy or data issues.
“Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy,” the company says in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We create our products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options.”
This sort of backing from a specific manufacturer is unusual – particularly from Apple. It is thus far the only major manufacturer to express its support for the bill in this manner. These kinds of statements are generally made through industry consortiums, such as TechNet.
It will undoubtedly be a big boon for Eggman and co-author Senator Nancy Skinner. Apple is, after all, a nearly $3 trillion company that has called California home since the mid-70s.
“Apple’s support for California’s Right to Repair Act demonstrates the power of the movement that has been building for years and the ability for industries to partner with us to make good policy to benefit the people of California,” Sen. Eggman says in the release. I’m grateful for their engagement on this issue and for leading among their peers when it comes to supporting access to repair.”
Legislators from at least 14 states have introduced similar bills. At the end of last year, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the Digital Fair Repair Act, which “requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to make diagnostic and repair information for digital electronic parts and equipment available to independent repair providers and consumers if such parts and repair information are also available to OEM authorized repair providers and servicers.”
Though, as we noted at the time, the bill had a good deal of concessions to manufacturers: “The bulk of those exceptions were added at the eleventh hour with the approval of Governor Kathy Hochul who said in a statement that they’re intended to lessen the risk of security issues and physical harm while making repairs.”
It seems likely that some level of industry compromise is necessary to get these things across the finish line.
California’s Right to Repair Act builds on the existing California Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which was enacted back in 1970. The new legislation would require manufacturers to “make available, on fair and reasonable terms, to product owners, service an repair facilities, and service dealers, the means, as described, to effect the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of the product, as provided,” regardless of warranty.
It would also, “require a service and repair facility or service dealer that is not an authorized repair provider, as defined, of a manufacturer to provide a written notice of that fact to any customer seeking repair of an electronic or appliance product before the repair facility or service dealer repairs the product, and to disclose if it uses replacement parts that are used or from a supplier that is not the manufacturer.”
The bill passed a Senate vote 38-0 back in May. It is currently awaiting assembly appropriation suspense file approval before going to a full assembly vote.