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FTC Pledges To Combat Unlawful Repair Restrictions By Manufacturers


The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a new policy statement aimed at protecting users’ right to repair. The Commission is promising aggressive action against manufacturers that unlawfully restrict users from repairing their devices.

“The Commission will scrutinize repair restrictions for violations of the antitrust laws,” the FTC said. It will bring an “interdisciplinary approach to this issue, using resources and expertise from throughout the agency to combat unlawful repair restrictions.”

The FTC doesn’t name any OEM but notes that manufacturers have been restricting the repairability of devices in several ways. These include limiting the availability of parts, intentionally using product designs that sabotage repair, imposing restrictive end-user license agreements (EULA), and more. Users were forced to repair their devices at OEM-defined centers, which often cost more money and also took more time. These practices also drove local repair centers out of business.

“Restricting consumers and businesses from choosing how they repair products can substantially increase the total cost of repairs, generate harmful electronic waste, and unnecessarily increase wait times for repairs,” the FTC said. Meanwhile, if users get more repair choices, then it can lead to lower costs. This will also reduce e-waste and enable more timely repairs. Not to mention, it will provide economic opportunities for independent repair shops as well.

As such, the FTC will now prioritize investigations into unlawful repair restrictions under relevant statutes. The Commission will also explore rulemaking. The current law does not provide for civil penalties or redress, it notes.

The FTC issued a strong policy statement against unlawful repair restrictions

The “Right to Repair” movement has been gaining steam over the past couple of years. The advocacy group includes iFixit, US PIRG (Public Interest Research Groups), and the Repair Association. They have received support from various corners, none more so than from consumers, of course.

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In April this year, the right to repair advocates delivered over 15,000 signatures to the FTC, asking the Commission to enforce a fair repair market. The joint petition sought to end the practice of manufacturers pushing consumers to authorized repair centers.

A couple of months later, the Commission has come up with some strong words, formally pledging to take on unlawful repair restrictions. The five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the policy statement, Reuters reports. “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,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said.

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