Great news from Washington, DC today, and a giant step forward in Right-To-Repair (R2R) when the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) published an in-depth report looking at how product repair restrictions from manufacturers, negatively impact consumers and small businesses in various ways.
In other words, they are FOR Right to Repair!
Titled Nixing the Fix the report covers a many of the methods that companies use to limit the ability for customers and independent business to repair their products.
The report found that even when a warranty does not explicitly require that repairs be performed by the original manufacturer, many manufacturers restrict independent repair and repair by consumers, especially with mobile phone and car manufacturers. The report includes the following restrictions:
- Product designs that complicate or prevent repair
- Unavailability of parts and repair information
- Designs that make independent repairs less safe
- Policies or statements that steer consumers to manufacturer repair networks
- Application of patent rights and enforcement of trademarks
- Disparagement of non-OEM parts and independent repair
- Software locks and firmware updates
Manufacturers argue that these restrictions exist to protect intellectual property and prevent injuries. They claim opening up repair access would undermine the safety and security of their products.
After evaluating manufacturers’ explanations for the repair restrictions, the FTC found scant evidence to support them.
The report continues:
Many consumer products have become harder to fix and maintain. Repairs today often require specialized tools, difficult-to-obtain parts, and access to proprietary diagnostic software. Consumers whose products break then have limited choices.
Furthermore, the burden of repair restrictions may fall more heavily on communities of color and lower-income communities. Many Black-owned small businesses are in the repair and maintenance industries, and difficulties facing small businesses can disproportionately affect small businesses owned by people of color.
In the conclusion of the report, which was carried out at the direction of Congress and submitted with unanimous consent, the FTC pledges to address what it perceives as unfair restrictions by pursuing “appropriate law enforcement and regulatory options, as well as consumer education, consistent with our statutory authority.”
The FTC also suggests that consumers can help to redress the balance by reporting when manufacturers aren’t obeying the existing rules regarding repairs.—
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