Apple’s self-service repair policy was imposed by a green investor resolution that added to regulatory pressure Timing is not a coincidence

Apple has announced that the company will soon make parts and repair manuals available to the general public, representing an evolutionary standard after years of restrictive repair policies. The new policy represents a radical change for a company that has fought for years against independent repair by restricting access to parts, manuals and diagnostic tools, designing products that are difficult to repair, and lobbying against laws that would enshrine the right to repair.

Self-service repair is intended for individual technicians with the knowledge and experience to repair electronic devices. The manufacturer notes that For the vast majority of customers, consulting a professional repairer with certified technicians who use genuine Apple parts is the safest and most reliable way to get repair.

The company will therefore offer online repair manuals (text, not video), accessible via the new online self-service repair store Apple. The system is similar to the one the company has deployed for independent repair providers (of which there are currently 2,800 in the United States plus 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers – Apple Authorized Service Providers or AASP), starting with the iPhone 12s and 13, focusing on display, battery and camera repairs. A similar service for M1Macs will be launched soon.

Apple hasn’t listed specific prices yet, but customers will get credit for the final charge if they send the damaged component in for recycling. When it launches in the United States in early 2022, the store will offer some 200 parts and tools to consumers. Performing the repair at home will not void the warranty on the device, but you may void this warranty if the device is further damaged during the repair. It is therefore necessary to read the manual thoroughly before deciding to purchase parts from the Apple Self-Service Repair online store.

But Apple did not change its policy out of the heart. The announcement follows months of mounting pressure from repair activists and regulators, and the timing of the announcement appears to be deliberate, given a shareholder resolution filed with the company in September by advocates of repair. the environment asking Apple to reassess its position on independent repair. Last Wednesday was a key opportunity in the fight for resolution, with advocates ready to take the issue to the Securities and Exchange Commission for a resolution. This is the day that Apple has chosen to make its announcement.

Nonetheless, Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy said the program has been in development for over a year, describing it as the next step in increasing customer access to parts, tools and manuals. Apple origin. Leahy declined to say whether the timing of the announcement was influenced by pressure from shareholders.

Activist shareholders believe this was the case. The timing is certainly not a coincidence, said Annalisa Tarizzo, a lawyer for Green Century, the mutual fund company that filed the repair right resolution with Apple in September. Following the announcement, Green Century withdrew its resolution that called on Apple to reverse its anti-repair practices and assess the benefits of making parts and tools more accessible to consumers.

This is exactly what Apple appears to be doing with its new self-service repair program. The program will allow the general public to order genuine Apple parts in order to perform basic iPhone repairs at home, which Apple has long argued as too dangerous for individuals.

Apple’s announcement of the program is not very detailed, including whether the program will be extended beyond iPhone 12 and 13 as well as Mac computers using M1 chips, how much will the original parts cost to customers, and whether Apple will eventually return. parts available for a wider range of repair devices. Although the announcement suggests, Leahy declined to confirm that the program would eventually be extended to other iPhone models. Still, the ad effectively responds to Green Century’s demand that Apple make significant changes to its repair policies to facilitate independent repair – assuming the big tech company follows through.

Apple’s initial response to the Green Century resolution was far from conciliatory. Tarizzo says that on October 18 (30 days before the self-service repair announcement), Apple submitted a no-action request to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the investor watchdog to block the proposal. According to Tarizzo, Apple’s argument before the SEC was that the proposal (that the company is preparing a report on the environmental and social benefits of making its devices easier to repair) went against the guidelines of the shareholder proposal by avoiding on Apple’s normal business operations.

However, earlier this month, the SEC issued new guidelines for no-action requests that include an exclusion for proposals that raise important social policy issues. In other words, shareholders can make resolutions that affect a company’s day-to-day business operations if those proposals raise issues with significant social impact. Tarizzo believes this change made it much more likely that the SEC would side with Green Century rather than Apple, especially as the mutual fund company made the connection between increased access to repair and repair. fight against climate change (using devices for as long as possible through maintenance and repair is one of the best ways to reduce the climate impact of consumer technology, as the majority of the missions associated with our gadgets occur during the manufacturing phase).

It was not a guarantee that the SEC would side with us, but the new guidelines indicate that it is very likely that we would win, Tarizzo said. This effectively removed much of Apple’s influence from the process.

Now, Apple appears to have regained some leverage by announcing its new self-service repair program on the same day Green Century was to respond to the no-action request. Instead of arguing that the SEC should allow shareholder resolution to go forward, Green Century preferred to simply withdraw its resolution.

Companies routinely ignore shareholder resolutions, and many thought Apple would react to Green Century’s resolution the same, but it has come at a unique time for the right to repair cause. This year, a record 27 states have considered bills on the right to repair and the first national bill on the right to repair was presented to Congress in June. None were enacted, but they sent an alarming message from companies like Apple that restrictive repair practices might not be legal any longer.

It also brought pressure from the federal government. The Library of Congress recently approved exemptions to the DMCA that blocked user repair. In May, the Federal Trade Commission came out strongly in favor of an independent repair with the release of a report finding little evidence to justify restrictions imposed by companies like Apple. Entitled Nixing the Fix, the report concluded that many of the explanations provided by manufacturers for repair restrictions are unfounded. In July, President Biden himself signed an executive order encouraging the FTC to draft new regulations that would limit the ability of cellphone makers to restrict home repairs. Biden charged the FTC with trying to prevent powerful equipment makers from restricting the ability of people to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs. The decree covers all electronic devices, not just agricultural equipment. These rules are far from coming into effect, but the specter of impending regulation was certainly a factor in Apple’s decision.

Some of Apple’s biggest competitors have already adopted right-to-repair policies, adding even more pressure on the company. Last month, Microsoft agreed to abide by a one-of-a-kind repair law resolution brought by environmental association As You Sow in June. The resolution called on Microsoft to study the environmental and social benefits of increased access to repair; Microsoft not only agreed to conduct such a study, but to act on the results by the end of 2022. Microsoft’s concession to activist shareholders came just after Green Century filed for a similar shareholder resolution. with Apple. Activists speculated that Microsoft’s move could put pressure on the iPhone maker.

The result is a huge victory for Green Century and for shareholder activism more broadly. Tarizzo says that while Apple’s new program doesn’t go to where we want the company to go, we think it’s a big enough step to warrant a withdrawal. The fact that they sell common spare parts, tools, that they publish repair manuals, all of this is all done in the spirit of what we hope to see happen.

While Tarizzo believes that the timing of Apple’s announcement is directly related to the resolution of Green Century shareholders, she believes the company’s about-face on independent repair is really the product of all-embracing pressure. sides of the law and repair movement from federal action to state bills to popular advocacy.

Nathan Proctor, senior director of the right to repair campaign at the US Public Research Interest Group, agrees.

If I had to guess what prompted Apple to act, it would be that the entire compilation of the repair right campaign succeeded in changing Apple’s position, Proctor said. I don’t think you can point to one particular thing that was done that made this happen. Everything made possible.

Sources : SEC, White House, FTC

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