By: Eleni Farrell
“You’ve got to be kidding me…” You groan with frustration as you reach down to pick up your now shattered iPhone. You head to the mall to see how long the wait at Apple is going to be. The Genius says there are 42 people ahead of you and “by the way, that could cost up to $300 depending on your model and warranty status.”1 You decide to have the screen fixed by the little tech kiosk by the food court; thankfully it was only $100.2 After a few weeks pass, however, you receive an Error 53 message after updating your phone.3 Through some quick research, you learn this is supposedly a security measure implemented by Apple.4 Apple claims the message appears when a “device fails a security test.”5 Except now you’re phone is essentially useless. Does this have anything to do with your screen cracking?
Good news and bad news… The bad news is that Apple, among many other companies, has been trying to restrict its users from repairing products by themselves and with the assistance of a third party.6 The good news? They’re getting in trouble for it.7
In the past, tech savvy consumers were able to replace malfunctioning parts or, at the very least, take it to a mom-and-pop shop. With companies increasing restrictions surrounding accessibility, consumers are driven to pay higher prices to have the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair the product.8 When comparing repair prices to the cost of a new product, users may find the two are on par, resulting in the trend of cutting losses and upgrading.9This trend has caused a major environmental concern: electric waste, or e-waste.10
If consumers were able to repair their electronics without the assistance of the OEM or a certified parts distributor, our electronics would last longer which would considerably cut down our e-waste.11 Theoretically, the result of this would be less money spent by the consumer on regular upgrades and less money spent by international environmental agencies on attempts to correct e-waste. E-waste is a major, and quite scary, concern because it can affect every aspect of life, especially pollution of air, soil, and water.12
Before you freak out and start to think about all the electronics you’ve had over the years that have contributed to this problem, remember there was good news too! There has been an international movement to bring these Goliath companies down.
In June 2018, Apple was fined $6.6 million for violating Australian Consumer Law for numerous Error 53 messages.13 A Norwegian court also cracked down when they ruled in favor of an independent repair shop owner who was sued by Apple for importing restored screens as replacement parts.14 For US residents, as of March 2019, there have been twenty states who have considered a Right to Repair bill which would assist consumers in accessing necessary parts to fix their electronics instead of throwing them away.15
On Thursday, August 29th, 2019, Apple made an announcement that they will start to give tools and instructions to allow independent repair shops an opportunity to fix Apple products.16 One source states that qualifying companies must have an Apple-certified technician to perform repairs and certifications require passing online, authorized exams.17 Another source postulates that this is Apple’s way of avoiding the Right to Repair bills.18
1 Daniel W., How Much Does An iPhone Screen Repair Cost?, HomeGuide https://homeguide.com/costs/iphone-screen-repair-cost (last visited Aug. 29, 2019).
3 Nathan Proctor, Countries are Taking Apple to Court Over Right to Repair – and Sometimes, They’re Winning, U.S. PIRG (July 9, 2018), https://uspirg.org/blogs/blog/usp/countries-are-taking-apple-court-over-right-repair%E2%80%8A%E2%80%94%E2%80%8Aand-sometimes-they%E2%80%99re-winning.
5 If you see error 53 when you update or restore your iPhone or iPad, Apple (Jan. 2, 2018), https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205628.
6 See Proctor, supra note 3
8 See Michael Hiltzik, Column: How Apple and other Manufacturers Attack Your Right to Repair Their Products, L.A. Times (Nov. 16, 2018), https://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-right-repair-20181116-story.html.
10 Catie Keck, Right to Repair is Less Complicated and More Important Than You Might Think, Gizmodo (May 10, 2019), https://gizmodo.com/right-to-repair-is-less-complicated-and-more-important-1834672055.
13 Proctor, supra note 3
15 Nathan Proctor, California Becomes 20th State in 2019 to Consider Right to Repair Bill, U.S. PIRG (March 18, 2019), https://uspirg.org/news/usp/california-becomes-20th-state-2019-consider-right-repair-bill.
16 Annie Palmer, Apple reverses stance on iPhone repairs and will supply parts to independent shops for the first time,CNBC (Aug. 29, 2019), https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/29/apple-to-provide-independent-repair-shops-with-iphone-parts.html.
17 While Apple continues to Fight the “Right to Repair” Movement, they introduced an “Independent Repair Provider Program” today, Patently Apple (Aug. 29, 2019), https://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2019/08/while-apple-continues-to-fight-the-right-to-repair-movement-they-introduced-an-independent-repair-provider-program-today.html.
18 Vincy Davis, Is Apple’s ‘Independent Repair Provider Program’ a bid to avoid the ‘Right To Repair’ bill?, Packt(Aug. 30, 2019), https://hub.packtpub.com/is-apples-independent-repair-provider-program-a-bid-to-avoid-the-right-to-repair-bill/.