FTC votes to fight back against right to repair restrictions

The agency published a paper outlining how it plans to support consumers and small businesses.

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The US Federal Trade Commission has voted unanimously to tackle unlawful repair restrictions. In a policy statement published on Wednesday, the agency said it plans to devote additional resources to enforcing existing laws, such as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, that protect small businesses and consumers from companies that would prevent them from fixing on their own products they purchased. In doing so, the FTC will take a five-part approach to the problem that will involve it collecting comments and complaints from the public, as well as working more closely with state law enforcement and policymakers to update existing regulations.

"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," recently confirmed FTC Chair Lina Khan said. "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."

The policy statement follows a July 9th executive order in which President Biden directed the FTC to tackle "unfair anti-competitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items" imposed by "powerful manufacturers" in the farming and technology industries. With Wednesday's announcement, the FTC didn't name any specific companies it will target as part of any enforcement action. However, a company like Apple is likely to be top of mind for the agency. The tech giant has consistently lobbied against state-level right to repair legislation, claiming those laws would put consumers at risk.

Right to repair advocates were quick to praise the announcement. "The FTC sets the tone for the nation’s commerce. For too long, manufacturers have been bullying consumers and driving local repair shops out of business," iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said in a blog post the company published following the policy announcement. "This landmark new policy changes that. There’s a new sheriff in town."