Apple Is Fighting Usage Of Aftermarket Parts In Repairs, New Report Shows

Parts pairing is a restriction imposed by companies like Apple, which can hinder customers from repairing their devices using aftermarket parts.
Apple iPhone 5s

Image: Unsplash

While Apple has expressed support for a right-to-repair bill in California, it appears to be lobbying against a similar bill in Oregon that seeks to address the practice known as parts pairing. Parts pairing is a restriction imposed by companies like Apple, which can hinder customers from repairing their devices using aftermarket parts.
The proposed bill in Oregon, known as SB 1596, aims to require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to provide documentation, tools, and parts necessary for customers and independent repair shops to fix broken products. However, it also specifically targets parts pairing, which has drawn scrutiny from Apple and other companies.
During a hearing on SB 1596, cybersecurity expert Tarah Wheeler provided testimony and shared footage indicating Apple's opposition to the bill. According to reports by 404 Media, John Perry, Apple's senior manager for the secure design team, testified that Apple utilizes parts pairing to "make repair easier" while maintaining the security of the device and its data.
What is Parts Pairing?
Parts pairing involves the requirement for users to "pair" replacement parts like batteries and screens to their device using Apple's System Configuration tool. If a part is not verified as being from Apple, users may receive notifications stating that the part installed is not genuine, and certain features like Face ID may not function properly.
The bill, SB 1596, outlines provisions aimed at prohibiting certain aspects of parts pairing. It states that OEMs cannot use parts pairing to prevent or inhibit independent repair providers or device owners from installing replacement parts or components that have not been approved by the manufacturer. Additionally, parts pairing cannot be used to reduce the functionality or performance of consumer electronic equipment or to display unnecessary or misleading alerts or warnings about unidentified parts.
According to the 404 Media report, Perry said that the bill's stance on component pairing would jeopardise Oregonians' security, safety, and privacy by requiring device manufacturers to accept the use of unknown origin parts in consumer products.
He emphasized that Apple has updated the parts pairing process to eliminate the need for customers to contact Apple support when installing a new part. Perry also asserted that consumers have the right to choose which parts they use for repair, as long as the device transparently reflects the repair history and the use of the part does not pose a risk to safety, security, or privacy.
What is Apple Thinking
Apple's opposition to the bill in Oregon contrasts with its recent initiatives to improve repair accessibility. Last October, Apple announced plans to make parts, tools, and documents available to customers, signalling a shift in its approach to repair accessibility. The company has also introduced a Self Service Repair program, which includes a range of iPhones and Macs, aimed at empowering customers to perform repairs themselves.
Despite these efforts, concerns remain about the prevalence of parts pairing and its impact on repair accessibility. An article by iFixit illustrates how Apple and other manufacturers have increasingly utilized parts pairing across various electronic devices, with data showing a growing percentage of paired parts in iPhones over the years.
Overall, the debate over right-to-repair legislation and the practice of parts pairing underscores the complex interplay between consumer rights, manufacturer control, and device security. While Apple's recent initiatives indicate a willingness to address repair accessibility concerns, its opposition to certain provisions of the Oregon bill reflects ongoing tensions between device manufacturers and proponents of repairability and consumer choice.
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