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Apple’s repair policy was not done out of the “goodness of its heart”

by on19 November 2021

Another game of monopoly 

While the Tame Apple Press was doing its best to claim that the fruity cargo cult was offering DIY repair kits to show its goodness, more cynical people - other than us - are smelling a rat.

Apple announced it sell components like batteries and screens to allow consumers to repair their own devices. While TAPs said that this will help reduce e-waste, we claimed there might be darker sides to the move and now it seems that other writers have worked out that it is a way for Apple to control the market for parts.

The Verge's Maddie Stone claimed that the announcement was "deliberate", considering Wednesday was a key deadline in the fight over a shareholder resolution environmental advocates filed with the company in September asking Apple to re-evaluate its stance on independent repair.

If Jobs' Mob had not done anything, the matter would have ended up at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Apple spokesperson Nick Leahy insisted that the programme "has been in development for well over a year", describing it as "the next step in increasing customer access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and manuals".

However, he declined to say whether the timing of the announcement was influenced by shareholder pressure.

Activist shareholders say that it clearly was.

Annalisa Tarizzo, an advocate with Green Century, the mutual fund company that filed the right-to-repair resolution with Apple in September. As a result of today's announcement, Green Century is withdrawing its resolution, which asked Apple to "reverse its anti-repair practices" and evaluate the benefits of making parts and tools more available to consumers.

However, Apple's response to the Green Century resolution was less than conciliatory. Tarizzo says that on October 18 - 30 days before the self-service announcement -  Apple submitted a "no action request" to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking the investor oversight body to block the proposal.

According to Tarizzo, Apple's argument before the SEC was that the proposal -- that the company "prepare a report" on the environmental and social benefits of making its devices easier to fix -- ran afoul of shareholder proposal guidance by infringing on Apple's normal business operations.

But Apple was triggered when the the SEC issued new guidance concerning no-action requests that includes a carve-out for proposals that raise "significant social policy issues".

In other words, shareholders can bring resolutions that affect a company's day-to-day business operations if those proposals raise issues with significant societal impact. Tarizzo believes that this change made it much more likely the SEC would side with Green Century rather than Apple, particularly since the mutual fund company connected the dots between increased access to repair and the fight against climate change.

"It wasn't a guarantee that the SEC would side with us, but the new guidance indicates it's very likely we would prevail…It effectively took away a lot of Apple's leverages in the process."

With its move, Apple seems to have regained some leverage by announcing its new Self Service Repair programme on the same day that Green Century was required to respond to the no-action request. Instead of arguing that the SEC should allow the shareholder resolution to move forward, Green Century is now withdrawing the resolution entirely.


Last modified on 19 November 2021
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