It seems as though Apple has declared war on the right-to-repair movement, both in the way it designs its products to make repairs difficult, and due to a new relationship with Amazon that is a game changer in the refurbished space. Third-party sellers who carved out a living or side hustle selling refurbished Apple products on Amazon report receiving emails telling them of an important change in policy.
“As part of a new agreement with Apple, we are working with a select group of authorized resellers to offer an expanded selection of Apple and Beats products, including new releases, in Amazon’s stores,” the email reads. “You are receiving this message because you are currently selling, or have previously sold, Apple or Beats products. Your existing offers for those products will soon be removed from Amazon’s online store in the United States. Please contact Apple if you would like to apply to become an authorized reseller on Amazon.”
John Bumstead forwarded the email to Motherboard, and explained in an interview that he buys thousands of broken laptops every year and refurbishes them. Those laptops would otherwise end up in a scrap heap, either recycled in some fashion or taking up space in a landfill. Refurbishing electronics is generally seen as a good thing all around, except sometimes for a company’s bottom line.
Apple’s new relationship with Amazon is a blow to sellers like Bumstead. Sure, there are other avenues—Craigslist and eBay, for example—but Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world. From Bumstead’s perspective, this new relationship between Apple and Amazon is the kind of thing “every Amazon seller has been dreading.”
Why not just become an authorized seller? That’s easier said than done, at least for smaller businesses and independent repair agents like Bumstead. Apple gets the final say in who gets the designated tag and, by extension, the right to sell repaired Apple products on Amazon. It’s not clear what the requirements are.
Interestingly, the new deal does not affect Amazon’s own “Amazon Renewed” program. However, Amazon’s requirements are steep in and of itself—to qualify, sellers have to spend a minimum of $2.5 million every quarter buying Apple products from a wireless carrier with over $5 billion in annual sales, like Verizon or Target, or from Apple. In other words, only big businesses can play in the Amazon Renewed space.
What’s happening here is an end-around to recent right-to-repair legislation. Congress has been cracking down on roadblocks to do-it-yourself electronic repair, like those “warranty void if removed” stickers.
Apple in particular has been aggressive in trying to prevent unauthorized sellers and users from repairing its products. Earlier this year, it bricked iPhone 8 devices with third-party display repairs by way of an iOS update, and more recently it built a ‘kill switch’ of sorts into its new MacBook Pro and iMac Pro systems that prevents the rigs from running if it detects an unauthorized repair.
Amazon doesn’t get a free pass from criticism here, either. People like Bumstead have built businesses around refurbished products, and contributed significant sums of money to Amazon through its marketplace program. Nevertheless, when Apple came calling, all that went out the window.