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Apple backs California right-to-repair bill in major policy shift

Apple CEO Tim Cook reacts to a customer carrying a Macintosh SE during the opening of the new Apple BKC store in Mumbai, India, on April 18, 2023.

Indranil Aditya | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple is now backing a California right-to-repair bill, a major shift in the company’s attitude toward the movement and a potential boon for the environment, according to a letter obtained by CNBC.

California Senate Bill 244 would require manufacturers such as Apple to allow customers to fix their broken or damaged devices. It was introduced by state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman in March. Eggman has put forward other right-to-repair bills in the past, saying that expanded right-to-repair legislation would “give consumers the choice to save some money.”

In a Tuesday letter to Eggman’s staff, Apple’s policy team concurred but said the company would not support the bill if it allowed repair shops to turn off Apple’s anti-theft remote locks, which often make it impossible to repair or activate old computers that have been sold.

“We support SB 244 because it includes requirements that protect individual users’ safety and security, as well as product manufacturers’ intellectual property. We will continue to support the bill, so long as it continues to provide protections for customers and innovators,” the company’s lobbyists wrote in the letter seen by CNBC.

Apple also said that it would continue to support the bill as long as repair shops were required to disclose “the use of non-genuine or used parts.”

TechCrunch and do-it-yourself repair-guide company iFixit were first to report on the letter.

“Apple’s support for California’s Right to Repair Act demonstrates the power of the movement that has been building for years and the ability for industries to partner with us to make good policy to benefit the people of California. I’m grateful for their engagement on this issue and for leading among their peers when it comes to supporting access to repair,” Eggman told CNBC.

Apple engaged with the lawmaker’s team “very early on” in what Eggman’s chief of staff David Stammerjohan told CNBC were “very constructive” conversations. Stammerjohan declined to comment on engagement or lobbying from other manufacturers.

“Apple supports California’s Right to Repair Act so all Californians have even greater access to repairs while also protecting their safety, security, and privacy. We create our products to last and, if they ever need to be repaired, Apple customers have a growing range of safe, high-quality repair options,” Apple said in a statement to CNBC.

The bill would require manufacturers who sell products for more than $100 — a threshold that applies to most of Apple’s products — to make replacement guides, parts, and tools available for at least three years after the date that manufacture ended.

Historically, the company has opposed right-to-repair laws. Apple is not usually a major direct lobbying force but has reportedly used its considerable heft to curb right-to-repair legislation in other states, including New York.

There have been a few reasons why the company has opposed similar bills. Apple sells AppleCare+ insurance for all of its major product lines, which drives store visits and can sometimes lead to ancillary revenue if a product needs to be replaced.

But Apple is also serious about maintaining quality and controlling customer experiences. In the past, replacing an iPhone screen at a non-authorized vendor would void your iPhone warranty. Substandard materials used by non-official repairers can lead to further damage down the line, or simply just not work.

The company, under pressure from consumer groups, has relaxed its position in recent years. For example, customers can now replace iPhone batteries under Apple’s Self Service Repair program, first launched in 2021. The program lets customers order genuine parts directly through Apple and repair devices themselves.

Apple left the door open to supporting further expansion of right-to-repair in the letter to Eggman. “Apple appreciates the opportunity to support your efforts to improve consumer options in California,” the letter said.

— CNBC’s Kif Leswing contributed to this report.

WATCH: Apple’s fix-it program a good but small step in the right direction

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