The Right To Repair Movement Is Just Getting Started

Several months back, Apple refurbisher John Bumstead received a batch of about 20 MacBooks from an e-waste recycler. Bumstead, who routinely refurbishes MacBooks that are more than 10 years old, shouldn’t have had a problem salvaging these computers, the oldest of which were from 2018. But only half of them were fully restorable, The Verge reported.

Five of the MacBooks were “activation locked,” meaning the prior owner had forgotten to wipe the device and nobody else could reactivate it. Another five had broken screens that would lose True Tone unless Bumstead replaced them with expensive new screens from Apple, something that would have eaten up most of the revenue he could earn refurbishing them.

Signed into law last month by Governor Gavin Newsom, the Right to Repair Act guarantees everyone access to parts, tools, and manuals needed to fix their electronic devices – something industry-backed research shows can reduce both waste and carbon emissions but which Apple, the world’s most valuable company, has aggressively lobbied against for years. At a recent White House event, Apple even pledged to honor California’s new law nationwide, The Verge reported.

AppleInsider reported that, according to The New York Times, the iPhone includes code to identify when repair components are bought from Apple – and to intentionally fail if alternatives are used.

Apple used to object to all “right-to-repair” moves to make it allow iPhone owners to go to independent repairers, to the extent that it allegedly got legislation watered down. It then launched its own repair service, and also backed California’s right to repair bill.

9to5Mac reported that Apple may have made a U-turn on the right to repair, but the battle is far from over. The growing practice of parts paring – something which has been increasingly adopted by the iPhone maker – is coming under increasing fire.

According to 9to5Mac, requiring components to be individually linked to the serial numbers of specific devices is proving a major barrier to affordable third-party and DIY repair. The EU is already considering a ban on parts paring, and right-to-repair campaigners are pushing for this in the US too.

The right-to-repair is a movement that argues that consumers ought to have the right to repair their own products – rather than be forced by Apple and other brands for expensive official repairs, or worse, consign devices to a landfill because a repair isn’t economical.

Apple company has spent literally years fighting right-to-repair legislation, spending money to lobby against it at both state and federal levels, either trying to block it altogether or – if it couldn’t manage that – to weaken the legislation as much as possible, 9to5Mac reported.

Apple’s U-turn started with the launch of a Self Service Repair program back in 2021, initially in California, and now nationally. Alongside this, the company stopped opposing right-to-repair laws and instead started actively supporting them.

In my opinion, Right-to-Repair laws are good things. It forces large companies to accept state laws that support the Right-to-Repair movement. It keeps electronics out of landfills, and it can inspire people to do some DIY on their computers and devices.

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