Apple’s Right-to-Repair U-Turn
Celebrate, but keep your eye on the prize
It’s been a pretty great week. Ever since Apple announced that it would sell its customers spare parts and tools to affect their own repairs, and supply them with the documentation to do so, I’ve been thrilled to do my comrades’ online victory laps. For a decade, I’ve fought alongside my pals in the Right to Repair movement against a coalition of the best-capitalized, most powerful multinational companies in the world, who used their incredible might to trample all other considerations: fairness, climate justice, safety, and security.
We introduced dozens of state right to repair bills — bills that set out the principle that when you buy a product, you should get to decide who fixes it — and watched as, time and again, a coalition of big business, led by Apple, used lies and scare-talk to convince lawmakers to vote the bills down.
We were outmaneuvered and outmatched but never overpowered. We know that we’re right, so we kept showing up, kept fighting, and kept the faith, and we’ve begun to win. First came the Massachusetts Right to Repair ballot initiative, then the New York Right to Repair bill, then the FTC’s Right to Repair enforcement order, and the President’s Executive Order on competition, which took a strong stance on right to repair.
For repair fans, Apple has been public enemy number one, the public standard-bearer for shameless lies about the dangers of repair. This was especially galling for those of us who started our journey in technology with Apple products, which were once so repair-friendly that every computer shipped with a schematic so you could take it apart, fix it, improve it, and put it back together.
It wasn’t just us. Apple’s stakeholders were increasingly and vocally disappointed with the company’s stance on repair. Everyone from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to its shareholders to its own employees had called the company out on its repair stance.
As Apple’s impact on the environment, on customers’ finances, and on the independent repair sector grew more visible, it was harder to maintain the fiction that Apple was waging war on repair to protect its customers. That fiction grew even less credible when Apple CEO Tim Cook warned his shareholders that…