Over the past few years, the increasing irreparability of products from companies like Apple has caused a divide. While consumers want options, companies like Apple want all repairs to be done through proprietary services like Apple Care. Finally, the FTC is tackling the problem head-on.
The FTC fights for the right to repair
On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted to fight against repair restrictions from businesses. Backed by an executive order by US President Joe Biden, the commission will increase law enforcement on unfair repair practices.
The FTC explained that it will restore the “Right to Repair for small businesses, workers, consumers, and government entities.” Instead of companies only offering repairs internally, third-party businesses will be able to properly conduct repairs. Furthermore, these repairs will have manufacturer documentation backing them.
"The Federal Trade Commission today unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against repair restrictions that prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. 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."
In the commission's announcement, it explained that manufacturers’ use of purposefully hard to repair components is an issue. The announcement explains that this is designed to limit third party repairs, essentially having a monopoly over device servicing.
In May, the FTC released a report to Congress that 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.
“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,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said during an open Commission meeting. “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 FTC's crackdown on manufacturer practices is a positive for all consumers. In the future, anyone will be able to get devices repaired outside of first-party companies. Repair company competition will result in lower prices, quicker turnaround and a safer environment for everyone.