iPhone repairs: Apple hands independent repair shops a tough contract

Independent repair shops that join Apple's program need to give up a lot of their independence.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Apple might have relaxed its stance on third-party repairs, but for companies approved to fix busted iPhones, there are a few strings attached that oblige them to help Apple's crackdown on "prohibited" components.   

Apple launched its Independent Repair Provider (IRP) program last August as an additional third-party channel that iPhone owners could use to get repairs besides Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASP). 

The IRP wasn't a perfect answer to criticisms from independent repair shops, but it was seen as progress for consumers who want affordable repairs for broken iPhone components, such as the screen. 

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The program launched after complaints about new system security warnings on iPhones if Apple detected that a replaced screen was not certified by Apple. Apple argues it doesn't profit from its high-priced replacements.  

But becoming an IRP comes with a number of catches that oblige companies to support Apple's war on counterfeit components. 

The IRP program allows third-party repair shops that aren't already AASPs to apply to be authorized by Apple to perform out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. 

Apple's support page details several requirements for repair shops, including the stipulation that Apple's "repair tools, training, service guides, and diagnostics must be kept confidential" and that companies must have Apple-certified technicians to perform repairs. 

But some IRP applicants have started complaining about the contract Apple has handed out, which, according to the contract obtained by Motherboard, includes unannounced audits and inspections by Apple that allow it search for "prohibited" repair parts. Apple can also issue fines if it finds non-genuine parts. 

Apple can also inspect IRP-approved stores for up to five years after the repair shop leaves the program. And if customers do use an IRP for repairs, the customer needs to sign a form that acknowledges Apple won't warranty the repair. 

IRP shops will be able to return components within 90 days if the parts are defective on the first time it is used. 

Many repair shops probably do supply or have supplied non-genuine Apple components to customers, but if they join the program the company will be banned from selling those components. 

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Apple's contract requires IRPs to notify Apple if the provider "learns or suspects that it has prohibited products in inventory" and "remove prohibited product listings, and discontinue use and sales of the prohibited products". 

The IRPs are also required to "assist Apple's investigation of such prohibited products" and "send prohibited products to Apple, at Independent Repair Provider's expense, for secure destruction and recycling".

Additionally, approved IRPs need to keep a database of customer information to support Apple's investigations. And if companies stray from Apple's contract, they could face fines. 

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