Last week, Apple announced the expansion of its Independent Repair Provider programme for iPhones to repair shops in Europe and Canada, but we still have big questions about  its limitations and the requirements for participating businesses.

Launched in the US in fall 2019, the programme aims to provide participating businesses with “training from Apple and the same genuine parts, tools, repair manuals, and diagnostics” as authorised repair shops. Only 140 independent repair companies have so far joined in the US.

“The Independent Repair Provider programme is flawed and an attempt to pre-empt or undermine ‘right to repair’ regulations. If conditions mirror what we’ve seen in the US, it’s proof that voluntary initiatives of companies are not sufficient to protect our right to repair and prevent electronic waste.” 

Chloé Mikolajczak, European Right to Repair campaigner

US businesses have complained about the narrow range and the high costs for spare parts sold through the programme, as well as overly limiting conditions for many independent repair shops to join. These include restrictions on what other spare parts businesses are allowed to use, and permit Apple to audit these shops at any time, even after they have left the programme.

Therefore, our questions to Apple are:

  • Has Apple changed the contract reflecting previous criticism by US businesses and Right to Repair campaigners?
  • What is the range and the pricing parts made available to participating businesses?
  • Will participating businesses be allowed to use refurbished parts not supplied by Apple?

Apple’s move to expand this programme occurs against the backdrop of Right to Repair legislation being developed at European and national level.

“Whether the programme can be a benefit to the repair sector really stands and falls with how hard it is to get certified as a technician. In Germany alone, there are several thousand shops that repair smartphones. If only a small percentage of them are able to participate in the programme, the independent repair market will not be strengthened”

Steffen Vangerow, from German repair business Vangerow GmbH

We are convinced that only through ambitious regulations such as the recently launched European Ecodesign process for smartphones, can repair become a truly accessible and affordable option. 

We need a universal right to repair

While Apple claims to be pushing repair publicly, it is shutting down existing repair options behind the scenes.

Indeed, only a few weeks ago, the company won its legal case in Norway’s Supreme Court against an independent Norwegian one-man repair shop. By weaponising intellectual property law, Apple set a precedent that sends a chilling effect for independent repair shops using non-genuine and refurbished parts (the most ecological and affordable option).

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