FTC unanimously votes to adopt new right to repair policy aimed to reduce manufacturer restrictions

The conversation regarding right to repair has been evolving quite a bit lately. What began as a significant uphill battle has started to see a change in terrain. Especially thanks to some newfound support from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC published a report earlier this year aimed to shed some light on “anti-competitive repair restrictions,” which aimed to shed some light on the landscape of the whole ordeal in the United States. Unsurprisingly, Apple’s name was brought up in that report, and not in a good way. Not too long after that, President Biden instructed the FTC to draw up new rules for right to repair.

Now, that initiative is moving forward. The commission has voted unanimously to approve a new policy statement that will restore the right to repair for not only small businesses, but also workers, government entities, and consumers.

From today’s announcement:

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.

The press release today also echoed the commission’s previous report, regarding the current state of right to repair in the U.S.:

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.

As for what’s next:

In the policy statement, the Commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The Commission also urged the public to submit complaints of violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a specific service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.

Things could change for the right to repair in a big way soon. The groundwork is already in place, to be sure. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.