The FTC is stepping up efforts to restore the right to repair movement thanks to a unanimous vote on Wednesday setting a new political statement.
The new policy statement states that the FTC will pay more attention to unlawful repair restrictions by companies that are preventing consumers and small businesses from repairing their own equipment. This includes using third-party parts or seeking help from third-party repair shops like iFixit.
The policy statement follows a comprehensive executive order from President Joe Biden that lays the foundation for Big Tech’s government. A request to the FTC to step up enforcement of illegal repair restrictions was included in the order.
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The move also comes two years after the agency released a report that found these restrictions “can significantly increase the total cost of repairs, create harmful electronic waste and unnecessarily increase waiting times for repairs”. Companies behind the best Android phones often make it harder to repair devices or require repairs to be done through them, which can often be costly and time consuming.
Newly appointed FTC chairman Lina Khan, known for her strong stance against anti-competitive practices, said in a statement that these repair restrictions can stifle innovation and adversely affect independent repairers.
As both the FTC’s work and public reporting have documented, companies routinely employ a variety of practices including restricting the availability of parts and tools, using exclusive designs and product choices that make independent repairs less safe, and the Assertion of patent and trademark rights that are illegally too broad.
As part of FTC enforcement, consumers are encouraged to file complaints against companies that violate the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This law prohibits companies from prohibiting the use of third-party parts in their products so that consumers can maintain the guarantee. This means that if you end up using third-party parts or going to someone other than Samsung to fix a Galaxy S21, for example, you won’t void your warranty.
Unsurprisingly, iFixit was a strong supporter of the Right to Repair movement and welcomed today’s vote. “The FTC sets the tone for the country’s trade,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO, in a statement. “For too long, manufacturers have bullied consumers and pushed local workshops out of business. This groundbreaking new policy changes that. There’s a new sheriff in town. “