The discussion on the right to repair has evolved a lot lately and the movement, which initially began as an uphill battle, seems to have now reached more even terrain, thanks to support from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC released a report earlier this year aimed at shedding light on “anti-competitive restraint restrictions” in the United States. Not long after, President Biden instructed the FTC to draft new rules for the right to repair.
Now, this initiative is moving forward. The commission voted unanimously, in a 5-0 decision, to approve the new policy that will restore the right to redress not only for small businesses, but also for workers, government agencies and consumers.
The FTC’s press release stated that the “policy statement adopted today is aimed at manufacturers’ practices that make it extremely difficult for purchasers to repair their products or shop around for other service providers to do it for them. By enforcing against restrictions that violate antitrust or consumer protection laws, the Commission is taking important steps to restore the right to repair.”
While the new laws still need to be set in place, FTC’s policy has set up five things it plans to improve from here on: first and foremost, the FTC will prioritize any investigations related to unlawful repair restrictions. The FTC will also encourage the public to submit complaints and info about companies that might not adhere to the relevant laws.
The commission will be scrutinizing “repair restrictions for violations of the antitrust laws” or otherwise promote monopolistic practices and will be closely monitoring unfair repair restrictions, as the FTC concluded that “manufacturers use a variety of methods—such as using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of parts and tools, or making diagnostic software unavailable—that have made consumer products harder to fix and maintain. The policy statement notes that such restrictions on repairs of devices, equipment, and other products have increased the burden on consumers and businesses. In addition, manufacturers and sellers may be restricting competition for repairs in a number of ways that might violate the law.”
FTC Chair Lina Khan has commented on the discussions stating that “These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency. The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”