This summer, President Joe Biden signed a broad executive order on competition that included a provision pushing companies to allow consumers to fix their own equipment. This “right to repair” clause doesn’t go far enough to support real freedom for consumers (though it’s better than the pro-corporate opposition we get from South Dakota Republicans and the inaction we got from their Dear Leader). But President Biden’s order has gotten Apple to reverse its opposition to letting consumers make their own repairs to their property:
In a sharp turnaround, the US tech firm announced on Wednesday that users will be able to access genuine Apple parts and tools for consumer repairs on the two newest iPhone models and eventually some Mac computers.
The shift is a reflection of President Joe Biden embracing the “right to repair” movement – which affects everything from smartphones to cars and tractors.
…Apple said it will launch an online store for self-service repairs early next year, which will have more than 200 individual parts and tools for making the most common repairs on the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13.
Do-it-yourself fixes to screens, batteries and displays will be the initial focus – despite Apple’s previous resistance due to security and safety concerns, such as faulty battery replacements that can damage a device [“Apple Allows Self-Repairs to Some iPhones and Macs After Pressure from Biden Administration and Regulators,” Sky News, 2021.11.18].
The Securities and Exchange Commission also helped motivate Apple’s change of heart by yanking an anti-consumer rule from the recent dark times:
Apple’s decision was announced on the same day as a key deadline related to a right-to-repair resolution filed by activist Appleshareholders back in September, a connection first reported by The Verge.
Green Century — the sustainability-focused mutual fund that led that effort — has now rescinded its resolution, which would have pushed Apple to study the environmental impact of its strict repair policies.
“We felt it was a big enough step forward,” Annalisa Tarizzo, a shareholder advocate at Green Century, told Recode. “We hope to continue engaging companies that we invest in on this topic because we think it is really important and there are real risks to investors related to this issue.”
New guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may have influenced Apple’s timing, Tarizzo added. About two weeks ago, the agency rescinded a Trump-era rule that had made it easier for companies to dismiss socially conscious shareholder resolutions. Wednesday was also Green Century’s deadline to defend its proposal to the SEC, which Apple had requested the agency to block [Rebecca Heilwell, “Apple Will Finally Let You Fix Your Own Devices—Sort Of,” Vox: Recode, 2021.11.17].
Only a small fraction of us are likely to deploy our own sharp objects against the most costly piece of equipment we regularly carry on our persons. But the Right to Repair is a basic property right. Apple’s recognition of that right came not because Kristi Noem rides horseys for the camera, but because President Joe Biden gets things done.