Say what you will about trends, but when they get to California, and the Silicon Valley in particular, the stakes usually get sky high, and last spring's electronics repair legislation proposal was no different. The California Right to Repair Act seeked to mandate Apple and other gadget makers, to make their repair manuals and guidelines available to everyone - from users, to small independent repair shops.
While the "Right to repair" movement was gaining steam here in the US, Apple wasn't sitting still, and argued that it will be consumers that will suffer in the end from unauthorized fixers with dubious aftermarket parts. The fight has been waged abroad as well, for the surprise of one Henrik Huseby, owner of a small unauthorized iPhone repair shops in the great country of Norway.
After getting a shipment of iPhone screens from Hong Kong seized at customs, he was contacted by Apple lawyers who tried to sweet talk him into signing an agreement not to use or distribute such parts any more. No passaran, said Mr Huseby, and, knowing the liberal Norwegian system, hired an attorney: "They threw all kinds of claims against me and told me the laws and acted so friendly and just wanted me to sign the letter so it would all be over. I had a good lawyer that completely understood the problem, did good research, and read the law correctly." Long story short, since the iPhone 6 and 6s displays in question were refurbished using genuine Apple parts from broken iPhones, the court sided with the repair shop owner, issuing the following statement:
press release announcing that more independent repair businesses will have access to the same genuine parts, tools and other resources as Apple Authorized Service Providers.Apple has been fighting those same small shops at home and abroad for a while, but back in August, it decided to preempt the legislation, and issued a
In a new twist on the matter, Apple claimed in a testimony before one Congressional judiciary committee in charge of investigating anti-competitive repair pratices that it is actually losing money on repairs, authorized monopoly or not:
Apple, IBM, Cisco and other tech giants have been fighting tooth and nail against the Right to Repair acts passage, as, they argue, they want to control the repair process to ensure safety and environmental compliance, and Apple listed an argument in that same vein during the committee hearing:
The Right to Repair Act proponents, however, beg to disagree, and say that in the last two decades manufacturers have monopolized repairs by withholding manuals, and introducing custom parts, down to the pentalobe screws that Apple uses in its iPhones. Needless to say, they issued their own statements over Apple's "money-losing" comments. As per Nathan Proctor, Director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair:
In addition, Mrs Gordon-Byrne, an executive director of the trade organization Repair.org, piled on that there are stipulation Apple scoffs at independent repair shops, and deliberately makes their lives harder:
The arguments seem to be far from over, and Apple may have to provide cold hard numbers to the oversight committee, demonstrating that even the official repairs are a money-losing aspect of its business, in order to deflect some of the Right to Repair heat away.