During the open At the commission’s meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to enforce the right to repair, thus providing U.S. consumers with the ability to repair their own electronic and automotive devices.
The FTCs approving the rules is not a surprising outcome; the issue of the right to repair was extremely bipartisan, as was the FTC itself issued a lengthy report in May who planted manufacturers for restricting repairs. But a vote of 5 to 0 signals the commission’s commitment to enforcing both federal antitrust laws and a key consumer guarantee law – Magnuson Moss Warranty Act“As for repairing personal devices.”
The vote, led by new FTC president and well-known technical critic Lina Khan, also comes 12 days after President Joe Biden signed a broad executive order aimed at promoting competition in the U.S. economy. The order covered a wide range of industries, from banks to airlines to technology companies. But one part has encouraged the FTC, which acts as an independent agency, to create new rules that will prevent companies from limiting repair options for consumers.
“When you buy an expensive product, whether it’s a half-million-dollar tractor or a thousand-dollar phone, you’re in a very real sense under the power of the manufacturer,” says Tim Wu, special assistant president for technology and competition policy within the National Economic Council. “And when they have unreasonable repair specifications, you can’t do much.”
Wu added that Right to repair has become a “visceral example” of the huge imbalance between workers, consumers, small businesses and larger entities.
Voting for the FTC is another victory for the Right to Repair movement in the US, led by advocacy groups like American Public Interest Research Group, as well as private companies like iFixit, a California-based company that sells device repair kits and publishes manuals to repair self-made craftsmen. Proponents of repair rights have long argued that consumers should have access to the tools, parts, documentation and software needed to repair products they own, whether it is a smartphone or a tractor.
These groups are also quick to call for cases where large manufacturers block or limit opportunities for independent product repairs or force consumers to return directly to the manufacturer, who then charges a repair premium. And it’s not just a matter of repairing broken glass on a smartphone or repairing an impossibly small smartwatch: In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020, medical device engineers began to speak on the dangers of lack of access to tools to repair critical devices, such as fans, during a crisis.
As more and more products are designed with an internet connection – from smartphones to refrigerators to cars – the issue of the right to repair is becoming more complex. Proponents of the fixes say consumers should have access to all the data collected by their personal devices, and that independent service workshops should have access to the same software diagnostic tools that “authorized” stores have.
“I urge the FTC to use its rule-making powers to strengthen basic consumer and private property rights and update them for the digital age, as manufacturers seek to turn hundreds of millions of technology owners into tenants of their own property,” said Paul Roberts, founder. Securepairs.org, during the public comment section of today’s FTC meeting. “The digital right to repair is a vital tool that will extend the life of electronic devices.”