Law and Ethics
Law is black and white. And ethics is the gray area in between.
This isn't legal advice. This is a collection of resources, links, and stories to help you be the best repair tech you can be. Our lawyers told us to say it again: this isn't legal advice.
As a repair business owner, there are certain laws you should be aware of. This wiki will focus on US law. Specific laws will vary state-by-state, so we advise you to research the laws in your particular area to understand how it will affect your business.
Use this wiki as a springboard for your own research. Because, after all, ignorance is not going to get your business out of trouble if you break the law.
Importing Parts ¶
Because Apple doesn't sell their repair parts to independent repair technicians, it's clear that anyone receiving new "OEM" repair parts is either importing counterfeit or stolen goods. We haven't heard of anyone going to jail for this—but businesses advertising that they have genuine OEM parts have been raided and had their inventories seized.
Don't worry, there are ways to buy parts without breaking the law.
Used Devices ¶
In some US states, you’re required to keep records of/report on all second-hand electronics you purchase. But it all depends on how the state decides to define your business. And, unfortunately, it's these sorts of laws that are up to interpretation—and changing rapidly as law enforcement grapples with electronic device theft.
If you accidentally bought a stolen device, police may compel you to give up the device to the original owner without any reimbursement or “finder’s fee.” And if you are knowingly selling stolen goods, that’s an entirely different issue—and a serious crime.
Data Theft ¶
Stealing is stealing. And many states, like California (Penal code sec. 502 c 1), are changing their larceny laws to explicitly state data theft as a crime.
Reporting Crime ¶
In many states, if you discover evidence of child abuse during the course of a repair, you’re legally compelled to report that to the police. If you're in a state where you aren't required to report this behavior, you're still protected if you decide to do so.
It's unfortunate, but it happens: your repair tech finds some interesting pictures or email on a laptop and decides to save a copy (data theft). You are not required to report that theft (unless the specific nature of that theft is felonious—and your state has mandatory felony reporting laws). What you do with the employee—and what you tell the customer–is an ethical decision. However, your employee's actions can still get you into legal trouble.
Vicarious Liability ¶
You are legally responsible for what your employees do during the course and within the scope of their employment. If your technician steals data from a phone, you could be liable for damages sought by the victim.
E-waste Law ¶
Many states have passed e-waste recycling mandates. Law or not, e-waste recycling is the right thing to do.
And that doesn't just apply to complete devices—it applies to individual repair parts, too. Whiny fans, cracked displays, and frayed power cords: that's all e-waste. Make sure they get to a proper recycling facility and not the trash.
We believe running an ethical business is crucial to the longevity of your business—and, it's the right thing to do. But if you aren’t an ethical person running an ethical business, consider these ethics guidelines as “Customer Service Best Practices” instead.
Service Alternatives ¶
If you’re about to replace a part that’s still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, you absolutely should mention this to the customer.
Data Theft ¶
You don’t have to tell the police that your tech took photos off of a customer’s device—but should you tell your customer their privacy and data have been compromised? We think so—but you can be liable for any damages sought by the victim
Voiding Warranties ¶
As far as we can tell, voiding a customer’s warranty isn’t a form of stealing. But just in case, your work order should include a disclaimer about voiding any possible warranties—just to cover your bases. And, if you’re certain you are voiding a warranty by performing a repair, you should definitely tell your customer before beginning the repair.
Part "Sharing" ¶
Taking a part out of one customer's device and putting it into another's is unethical. Don't ever do that—even if it's the expedient thing to do and you think "no one will ever know!" It doesn't matter how logical it may seem—your customer will feel betrayed if they find out.