Currently, Apple customers do not have the right to have the Apple devices they own repaired by any repair technician or company not previously approved by Apple. Customers must have their devices repaired by Apple repair technicians or companies which are part of Apple’s Independent Repair Provider program. In this program, independent companies can apply for access and permission to repair Apple devices with ‘genuine’ Apple parts. However, Apple has the power to decide which companies can have access to these resources and repair their products, therefore restructuring customer choice on where and how to repair their devices. Furthermore, these independent companies are restricted from performing certain types of repairs.
Apple has argued that it cannot introduce a right to repair policy as repairs made using ‘non-genuine’ parts would compromise the safety and the security of their products. Apple uses a DRM (Digital Rights Management) and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) to prevent customers from fixing their devices.
"Apple has actively tried to prevent customer choice and the right to repair. New York's lobbying disclosure laws reveal that Apple pays lobbying firm Roffe Group $9,000 per month for its services, and records show that Fair Repair (New York Senate Bill 618A) is one of three bills which Apple lobbied on in March and April 2017. Apple also took Norwegian small business owner and repairer Henrik Huesby to Norway’s Supreme Court over trademarking laws, despite Oslo District Court ruling that Huseby did not violate Apple’s trademark.
Apple uses various tactics to prevent product owners and independent parties from repairing Apple products. For example, Apple has created a unique screw for use with its products, making it difficult for anyone else to repair them. Apple also caused error messages to appear on iPhones when users who had repaired their iPhones with non-Apple parts upgraded their iOS software.
Apple will be unable to reach its aim of carbon neutrality by 2030 while withholding consumers’ right to repair the Apple products they own. 53 million tonnes of electronical waste is produced each year, making it the fastest growing form of waste in the world. By implementing a right to repair policy, Apple would reduce its electronic waste, increase its products’ durability and reduce its impact on the environment.
The absence of competition on repairs means that many customers opt to buy new devices instead of repairing them. This is due to the price of repairs and the inconvenience of current repairment procedures . The average lifespan of a smartphone is 2 years, however allowing the right to repair can increase the lifespan of devices to 10 years. By introducing a right to repair policy, Apple would encourage its customers to change their behaviour and become part of the circular economy, which in turn will increase the sustainability of Apple.
Giving customers the right to repair will increase economic competition as small and independent businesses would be able to compete within the market. This in turn increases the repair accessibility and options for consumers.
Right to repair policies are gaining traction internationally. The EU and the U.K. are planning to implement a ‘Right to Repair’ law in summer 2021 which would require manufacturers to make spare parts available to the public. It is important for Apple to follow this trend.
We recommend that Apple implement a right to repair policy to give customers the right to decide where and who repairs the products they own. Apple should make available the repair information for its devices and allow any business or individual to be able to repair Apple devices. Apple needs to make ‘genuine’ Apple parts widely available and not limit access to the Independent Repair Provider program. Apple should program software to work regardless of whether products have been fixed with ‘genuine’ parts.
- Svensson, S. Richter, J. Maitre-Ekern, E. Pihlajarinne, T., Maigret, A. & Dalhammar, C (2018). The Emerging ‘Right to Repair’ legislation in the EU and the US. Paper presented at Going Green CARE INNOVATION 2018. Vienna, Austria
- Moore (2021). You gotta fight for your right to repair: The digital millennium copytight act’s effect on right-to-repair legislation. The Digital Millennium. Bluebook 21st ed.
- Koebler (2017) Apple is lobbying against your right to repair iPhones, New York State Records confirm. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en/article/nz85y7/apple-is-lobbying-against-your-right-to-repair-iphones-new-york-state-records-confirm
- Mikolajczak (2020) Apple crushes one-man repair shop in Norway’s supreme court after three-year battle. Available at: https://repair.eu/news/apple-crushes-one-man-repair-shop/
- Harrabin, R. (2021). ‘Right to Repair’ law to come in this summer. BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56340077