Well, well, well. After Apple—a company notoriously hostile to independent repair shops—appeared to cede part of its monopoly on Apple product repairs through its Independent Repair Provider (IRP) program, a new report has found that Apple is still very much on its bullshit.
Motherboard obtained a copy of the contract provided to independent repair outfits. The tech outlet spoke with people familiar with the program and learned that Apple is imposing highly constraining and arguably excessive restrictions on its independent repair partners, including by requiring them to contractually agree to be audited by Apple at any time during the time they are an IRP as well as up to five years after they leave the program. And according to the report, any banned products—as defined and determined by Apple—found during such inspections can result in hefty fines.
Motherboard reported that the IRP contract stipulates that any “prohibited products” determined to be included in over 2 per cent of the contractor’s sales can result in exorbitant fines of $US1,000 ($1,485) per transaction during a given audit period. Moreover, Motherboard reported, those fines can be imposed “in addition to reimbursing Apple for the cost of its investigation.” For small, independent businesses, such imposed fines could be devastating.
Back in August, when Apple announced its new independent repair shop program, the company touted its OEM parts, manuals, and—perhaps most importantly—training that it would provide to these businesses as an indication that it would meet a high bar of service. In a statement at the time, Apple’s chief operating officer Jeff Williams said that when someone needs a repair done, they “should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.”
But confusingly—despite all this noise the company made about veritable Apple training and parts—Apple evidently still insists that these repairs are somehow inferior to repairs performed by Apple itself or one of its Authorised Service Providers. According to the Motherboard report, independent repair partners must specify on their store windows and on their business websites that they are not Apple authorised and must require customers to acknowledge they understand this before getting their repairs. These repair shops reportedly must also agree to share their Apple customers’ information with the company, indicating yet another way Apple maintains a stranglehold on its independent repair shops as well as its customers.
Apple did not answer Gizmodo’s multiple requests for comment about the contents of the contract obtained by Motherboard.
For all of the fanfare about Apple’s independent repair partner program, Motherboard’s reporting indicates that Apple has co-opted the right to repair movement to serve its own corporate agenda—all under the guise of propping up small and local businesses and benefitting its customers with greater access to repairs on their devices. And Apple evidently doesn’t want its abhorrent behaviour put on blast, either. According to Maddie Stone, author of the Motherboard article, in the course of her reporting, “multiple sources brought up a terrifying NDA and traceable metadata embedded in the documents.”
Apple would very much like us to believe it has our best interest at heart. It’s just given us yet another indication that’s not the case, and it’s no closer to letting go of its repair monopoly than it has been—which is to say, not at all. Apple should be ashamed.