Allstate, one of the largest insurance companies in the United States, just made a curious purchase. Through its subsidiary SquareTrade, the insurance giant bought iCracked, one of the largest independent smartphone repair companies in the country.
The acquisition means that Allstate has become one of the most powerful proponents of right to repair legislation in the United States. According to Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org, which is pushing for the legislation, the company has already been helpful in organizing the movement's efforts in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
This is potentially big news for the right to repair movement, which is trying to get laws passed in 15 states this year that would make it easier for independent repair professionals to get repair tools and parts for consumer electronics. Thus far, it’s been largely a grassroots effort from organizations like Repair.org and iFixit. Companies such as Apple, John Deere, Facebook, Microsoft, and trade organizations that represent huge tech companies have used their considerable political power to lobby against these bills. But Allstate’s purchase of iCracked is a potential gamechanger.
iCracked is a giant chain that does a lot of third party repairs. A change in the laws would benefit it, and now Allstate, as much as the average consumer.
“iCracked has been a major supporter of right to repair, and we really appreciate their valuable contribution to the fight for freedom,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told me in an email. “I’m optimistic that this partnership will elevate the visibility of the work that we’re doing together.”
I reached out to SquareTrade to see where it stood on the right to repair. “SquareTrade continues to work with manufacturers as well as the independent repair community,” Jason Siciliano, VP and Global Creative Director of SquareTrade told me in an email. “As this issue evolves, we will maintain good relationships and continue to listen to the key players on all sides of the debate and will work towards sensible solutions whether they are led by the industry or regulators.”
Even before the acquisition, Allstate has been a powerful ally to the right to repair movement behind the scene. “Allstate has been very helpful to us,” Gordon-Byne told me.
New Hampshire is a state on the forefront of the right to repair movement. The state legislature is currently considering HB 462, a bill drafted with help from Repair.org, that would require electronics manufacturers to provide the owners of independent repair businesses with access to manuals and replacement parts.
Allstate, the fourth-largest insurance company in the country, is an ally the movement is happy to have.
"Right now, the struggle on right to repair is us Davids versus a whole slew of Goliaths,” Nathan Proctor, the Director of the Campaign for the Right to Repair at US PIRG told me in an email. “In the end, even if some larger companies support the right to repair, the reason will end up winning is because legislators hear from their constituents, if more Davids join in, and make their voices heard.”
Allstate and iCracked did not respond to a request for comment.
Update: This story has been updated to clarify Allstate's role in the right to repair movement thus far.