The FTC Is Not Happy With Manufacturers That Don't Let You Repair Their Products

In a significant new development in the "right to repair" fight, the Federal Trade Commission is going after manufacturers who restrict user repairs.

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This week, the United States government signaled its intent to take the side of consumers in the fight over the "right to repair," or the ability for consumers to readily and easily repair their own devices. In a new report, the Federal Trade Commission attacks manufacturers, listing an array of anti-competitive and restrictive action taken to prevent owners from fixing their products.

The report, titled Nixing the Fix, has been eagerly anticipated by both manufacturers and consumer rights advocates, as it is one of the biggest signs in recent years of how the U.S. government is approaching the right to repair. In the report, the FTC outlines the policies instituted by manufacturers of devices from mobile phones to cars, such as purposefully limiting the availability of spare parts and instituting product designs that make repairs unnecessarily complex.

The Right to Repair logo.
The Right to Repair logo.

The FTC focuses on the impact to the users from these restrictive measures taken by manufacturers. It specifically calls out the disproportionate financial impact that onerous anti-repair designs and policies have on low-income communities and people of color. The FTC states that small repair shop businesses are also unfairly harmed.

The report has been sent to Congress, where it is now up to legislators to take more significant action. The FTC cannot do much on its own to implement policies to reverse manufacturer restrictions, although the report suggests that it should take such actions that it can as allowed by law. For anything more ambitious, the House of Representatives and Senate must take on the task with the information provided by the agency. In its recommendations section, the report suggests legislation outlawing anti-competitive policies, stating that self-regulation will not be sufficient.

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