The Right to Repair movement got a boost this week, when Apple announced a new program, Self Service Repair, that will let people buy genuine Apple parts and tools to make some of their own repairs to limited Apple products such as newer iPhones and some Macs. It will be starting early next year. Implemented well, Apple’s program could be huge for everyone who supports the right to repair.
This is a major shift for the company, which has fought for years against movements to expand people’s right to repair their Apple products. Right-to-repair advocates have not only pushed the company to move on this issue, but also to get regulators and lawmakers to acknowledge the need to protect the right to repair in law. Apple’s announcement is only one illustration of how far the advocacy on the right to repair has come; in just the past two years, advocates have won at the ballot box in Massachusetts, received a supportive directive from the Biden Administration, changed policy at Microsoft, and made some gains at the Library of Congress to expand repair permissions.
The Self Service Repair Program could be another feather in that cap. But now that Apple has announced the program, we urge them to roll it out in ways that truly expand their customers’ access and choice.
It’s important that Apple’s program, or any program, does not come with strings attached that make it unworkably difficult or too expensive for a normal person to use. In the past, Apple has done both—as YouTuber and professional repairer Louis Rossman pointed out.
Apple’s Independent Repair Provider Program, which was supposed to make manuals and parts more available to independent repairers, did not live up to its early promise. In practice, it saddled those who wanted to participate with restrictive non-disclosure agreements, made it difficult to obtain parts, and made it impossible for independent repair shops to keep parts in stock to respond quickly to repair requests.
The company also ultimately limited the Independent Repair Provider Program to a few parts for a few devices. Apple should not do this again with the Self Service Repair Program. At launch, the forthcoming program is very limited — first to parts for the iPhone 12 and 13, and soon Mac computers with M1 chips. Apple has said its repair program will support the most frequently serviced parts, but they are not the only components that break; it would be great to see this list continue to expand. As it does, Apple should strive to make the program accessible and provide parts in ways that protect device owners from high charges for replacement. For example, if someone drops their phone, they should be able to just buy a screen, and not a whole display assembly.
We urge Apple not to repeat past mistakes, but instead move forward with a program that truly encourages broader access to parts, manuals, and tools.
Expanding access to repair also means providing support for the independent repair shops who help people who need their products fixed but lack the technical knowledge or confidence to do so. The company should go further to support independent shops—which, after all, are also working toward the goal of keeping Apple’s customers happy.
We’ve worked for years with our fellow advocates, such as the Repair Coalition, iFixit, U.S. PIRG, and countless others, to shift the conversation around the right to repair. We must ensure that the market continues to get better for people who want choice when it comes to fixing their devices—whether that’s protecting individual rights to fix devices, supporting independent repair shops, encouraging more companies to take steps that embrace this right, or winning cases and passing laws to make it crystal clear that people have the right to repair their own devices.
Apple’s announcement shows there has been considerable pressure on the company to change its designs and policy to answer consumer demand for the right to repair. Let’s keep it up and keep them on the right track.