The FTC is ramping up its efforts on restoring the Right to Repair movement, thanks to a unanimous vote on Wednesday laying out a new policy statement.
The new policy statement says that the FTC will direct more attention to unlawful repair restrictions imposed by companies that discourage consumers and small businesses from repairing their own devices. That includes using third-party parts or seeking assistance from third-party repair shops like iFixit.
The policy statement follows a sweeping executive order laid out by President Joe Biden, which sets the groundwork for reigning in Big Tech. A call for the FTC to implement greater enforcement of unlawful repair restrictions was included in the order.
The move also comes two years after the agency submitted a report finding that these restrictions “can substantially increase the total cost of repairs, generate harmful electronic waste, and unnecessarily increase wait times for repairs.” Companies behind the best Android phones often make it harder to make repairs on devices or require that repairs be handled through them, which can often be costly and take a lot of time.
Newly appointed FTC Chair Lina Khan, known for her strong stance against anti-competitive practices, said in a statement that these repair restrictions can stifle innovation and detrimentally affect independent repair shops.
As both the FTC’s work and public reporting have documented, companies routinely use a whole set of practices, including limiting the availability of parts and tools, using exclusionary designs and product decisions that make independent repairs less safe, and making assertions of patent and trademark rights that are unlawfully over-broad.
As part of the FTC’s enforcement, consumers are encouraged to submit complaints against companies violating the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This act prohibits companies from disallowing the use of third-party parts in their products in order for consumers to retain the warranty. This means you won’t void the warranty if you end up using third-party parts or going to anyone but Samsung to fix a Galaxy S21, for example.
iFixit has unsurprisingly been a strong supporter of the Right to Repair movement and applauded today’s vote. “The FTC sets the tone for the nation’s commerce,” iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens said in a statement. “For too long, manufacturers have been bullying consumers and driving local repair shops out of business. This landmark new policy changes that. There’s a new sheriff in town.”