Google has officially supported it Right to Repair (R2R) legislation. Specifically, the company supports SB 542, sponsored by Oregon State Sen. Janeen Sollman (D). While Google’s motivations may have less to do with newfound altruism and more to do with shaping the regulatory measures that seem increasingly inevitable, as the saying goes in sports, “a win is a win.”
The company uses the new R2R position as a blog post and white paper published on Thursday. “Today, we are pleased to reaffirm our support for the Right to Repair movement by releasing our first white paper on repair, while also endorsing the Oregon Right to Repair bill, which offers a compelling model for other states to follow,” the company wrote.
Google He lobbied against Right to Repair legislation In March 2021, when he opposed the R2R bill in Colorado, HB21-1199. He also holds the record against AB1163 in California. The company’s position had shifted in line with the direction of regulatory winds before today. (O partnered with iFixit for self-repair It starts in 2022.) But it seems disingenuous that Google’s announcement today simply “reiterates” (ignoring documented evidence) the value it has always stood for.
Google’s suggestions for regulators
Google’s language in the white paper reveals a tactic that is shaping legislation. An entire section titled “Policy Perspective” breaks down the language and boundaries the company believes R2R rules should contain.
That policy section of the document includes a passage about “design flexibility,” urging lawmakers not to squeeze device manufacturers by imposing strict design codes. “Well-intentioned regulations that set specific design requirements and standards to improve repairability can have unintended consequences that stifle innovation and inadvertently lead to bad outcomes like more e-waste,” Google wrote in its white paper. “Design for repair policies should focus on identifying repairable outcomes rather than setting strict design standards.”
Another item in the policy section, a “reasonable lead time,” requires regulations that will not disrupt existing production schedules. “Consumer electronics operate with long product development timelines, often spanning years,” Google said. “The new regulatory measures must follow a sensible timeline that ensures manufacturers can respond to the new requirements without undue burden. Regulations should not apply to products already designed and marketed, as such measures are problematic and may have negative unintended consequences such as creating more e-waste.”
None of these requests seem entirely unreasonable — and the points about e-waste can be taken at face value — but, coincidentally or not, they also serve Google’s business interests.
Apple dig and… Project Search?
Google also took a dig at Apple. “Policies should discourage OEMs from engaging in unfair anti-repair practices,” the document states. “For example, pairing of parts, the practice of using software barriers to prevent consumers and independent repair shops from replacing components, or other restrictive barriers to repair should be discouraged.”
Apple of course famous for joining partsthe practice of digitally tying part serial numbers to a device’s serial number, blocking third-party repair services (and leaving people who pay for them with nasty incompatibility warnings).
Google’s article highlights, even calls out, examples from its history of supporting R2R and similar initiatives (discontinued) Project Ara modular phone as an example of projects that “push the boundaries and better understand the repair needs of our users” from a decade ago. (If only it delivered to consumers.)
The paper also details Google’s repair capabilities, seven years of software support for Pixels, and seven years of hardware support. All this can be seen like this A brilliant victory for the R2R movementeven if the corporations’ motives are less noble than they like to let on.