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Public Knowledge Welcomes FTC Step Toward Restoring Consumers’ Right-To-Repair

July 21, 2021 , ,
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Today, the Federal Trade Commission voted to approve a new policy statement to help consumers repair the products they own. The vote follows President Biden’s Executive Order calling on the agency to establish rules against anticompetitive practices that limit consumer’s ability to repair their devices.

This policy statement marks the next step in the FTC’s multi-year effort to address restrictions on repair rights. In May, the FTC issued a report detailing the many tactics product companies use to restrict device repairs, including limiting the availability of repair parts, diagnostic tools, and repair manuals; locking components using proprietary software for the alleged purpose of protecting copyrighted material; and obscuring repair restrictions in end user license agreements. In the report, the FTC concluded that it had authority to issue rules to help address these issues and declare certain types of repair restrictions as illegal. 

Public Knowledge supports the rights of consumers to repair devices they own and commends the FTC for taking a harder line against repair restrictions. According to the statement, the FTC will start actively enforcing the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, explore appropriate rulemaking to address consumer repair needs, and explore whether certain anti-repair activities violate traditional antitrust laws.

The following can be attributed to Kathleen Burke, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“Consumers have the right to repair their own devices, from farming equipment and medical devices to gaming consoles and cell phones. With this vote, the FTC has moved closer to restoring a meaningful right-to-repair.

“Public Knowledge has consistently advocated that intellectual property should never prevent people from repairing goods they legally own. Unfortunately, intellectual property is only one of the underhanded ways that manufacturers limit repair rights. Restoring a meaningful right-to-repair should also address designing products with repairability in mind; requiring manufacturers make service manuals and repair parts available; and preventing warranties, terms of service, and consumer contracts from limiting consumer rights in this area.

“The FTC’s new policy statement moves in the right direction to address these concerns but could go even further. Commissioner Chopra’s call to engage the independent repair community, make it easier for consumers to file complaints, and assist policymakers as they craft right-to-repair laws would help move the needle even further. We urge the FTC to consider all of these issues in a new rulemaking to protect the right-to-repair.”

View our recent blog posts, “COVID-19 Highlights Why IP Shouldn’t Limit the Right-to-Repair,” and “How the Right-to-Repair Can Help Us Overcome Our Economic and Climate Challenges,” to learn more about this crucial right.