Apple repair store plans slammed for blocking strangers

The debut of Apple’s self-service repair program hasn’t mended the rift between iBiz and repair advocacy groups, who continue to see Cupertino’s resistance to product repairs as an effort to retain income that might otherwise go to others.

apple wednesday spear its Self-Service Repair Store, a website where people interested in fixing broken iPhone 12, 13, and SE 3 hardware can acquire Apple-approved parts, tools, and documentation. The company announced the plan in November, which seemed like a change of heart given its previous avid lobbying to derail legislation that would require more repairable products.

Ongoing agitation from the Right to Repair movement, amplified by antitrust concerns over Big Tech, has led to legislative proposals in at least 27 US states who support the right to reparation. And the problem turned out to be very popular with American voters.

a february CALPIRG survey of 212 Californians, 75% support the right to repair, including 76.64% Democrats, 61.36% Republicans and 81.97% independents – with only 6% opposing reparations. President Biden released last year an executive order affirm support for repairable products. And the Federal Trade Commission has mentioned [PDF] it will take action against companies that thwart product repairs.

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Yet Apple’s nod to what looks like a political fatality has already been dismissed by two reparations advocacy groups as a marketing ploy.

“I will give their marketing team an A+ for retaining their repair monopoly while offering the pretense of cooperation without actually respecting the right to repair,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of The Repair Association, in a blog post released Wednesday.

Gordon-Byrne suggests Apple’s efforts are aimed at blocking the legislation, and she expects the company’s intransigence could spur lawmakers to pass statutes that demand full access to repair materials on terms. reasonable.

The problem, she argues, is that Apple uses coin matching technology – where parts must have certain serial numbers to be activated and functional.

Other repair-focused organizations cite the same issue. Elizabeth Chamberlain, director of sustainability at iFixit, welcomed Apple’s step in the right direction, but condemned the company for tying parts to serial numbers.

“Apple is doubling down on its parts-matching strategy, allowing only very limited repairs authorized by serial number,” Chamberlain explained in a blog post.

“You cannot buy key parts without a serial number or IMEI. If you are using a spare part, there is a ‘unable to verify’ warning Waiting for you. This strategy hampers third-party repair with feature loss and scare tactics and could significantly limit options for recyclers and refurbishers, short-circuiting the circular economy.”

In an email, Gordon-Byrne said The register that she thinks upcoming legislation will require Apple to do more to support product repairs.

“Specifically, Apple will have to stop tying its parts to the motherboard without directly offering consumers and independents the same options,” Gordon-Byrne said.

“Part pairing is currently being used to thwart repairs using both genuine Apple parts and definitely non-OEM genuine parts. The potential to block pairing repairs entirely is an existential threat to repairs and not just by Apple. The same techniques are used in appliances, tractors and cars.”

Gordon-Byrne said she was less concerned about high prices for new parts and more about ensuring that salvaged parts can be used for repairs. “People tend to lose the option of repair as equipment ages when new parts aren’t available, so it’s critical that used parts remain viable,” she said.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. ®

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Steven L. Nielsen