Apple will now give third-party repair shops access to parts and resources to service Macs, on top of iPhones, in an extension of the company’s independent repair provider (IRP) program launched last year.
The program provides qualifying businesses with Apple-genuine parts, as well as free training and diagnostics, so that third-party independent shops can perform common repairs on the company’s out-of-warranty products.
Started in the US last autumn, the IRP scheme initially focused exclusively on iPhone servicing, but will now also include Mac products.
“We’re excited to expand our independent repair provider program to the Mac, so that customers have an additional way to have their Mac serviced with Apple-genuine parts,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “When a device needs repairs, we want people to have access to a safe and reliable solution.”
Customers can check local repair sites online. Since the start of the IRP program for iPhones last year, over 140 businesses have signed up in 700 locations; and Apple recently announced that the scheme is expanding to Europe and Canada, suggesting that the number of participating repair shops is set to jump.
The IRP scheme complements an existing network of over 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) around the world, which perform in and out-of-warranty repairs. Before the program launched, AASPs were the only businesses that could access Apple-genuine parts, and they included multinational companies such as consumer electronics retailer Best Buy.
Until now, therefore, Mac owners had limited repair options for their devices. With AASPs sometimes located too far away, or offering expensive services, many turned to unauthorised repair shops, resulting in patchy consumer experiences.
Right-to-repair groups have decried Apple’s practices over the past few years, arguing that the Cupertino giant actively locks out independent businesses and designs products in ways that discourage repairs.
The move to open up iPhone, and now Mac products to third-party repair businesses via the IRP program is therefore likely to be welcomed by activists. Nathan Proctor, head of the Right to Repair campaign with the US Public Interest Research Group, stressed the “importance of Apple changing tune” in light of the tech giant’s latest announcement.
But despite the encouraging advancements within the IRP program, Proctor highlighted that the scheme is still deeply flawed. “I think we are giving too much credit to what Apple is doing with their expanded independent repair shop program,” tweeted Proctor.
The activist pointed to reports that the scheme is particularly invasive for small shop owners. Copies of the contract that businesses are required to sign before being admitted to the IRP program have effectively shown that Apple can maintain extensive control over third parties through the scheme.
For example, repair shops that join the program have to agree to unannounced audits and inspections by the tech giant, including for up to a year after the end of the contract. This is to make sure that third parties aren’t using prohibited parts when repairing Apple’s products.
Participating businesses are also sometimes required to share information about their customers with Apple, and to prominently advertise in their stores that they are not Apple-authorised service providers.
But some repair businesses maintain that the IRP program has nevertheless been greatly beneficial, and that expanding the scheme to include Mac products will have a positive impact.
Patrik Sandgren, who owns repair company Sandgren Electronics, said: “The access to real iPhone original spare parts, manuals and testing tools has been really great for both us and our customers and we are excited about the news that Mac parts will soon be available for us.”
“The same flexibility for Mac repairs is wonderful news for us and all our customers. We can’t wait to get started with the training,” he added.