FTC Votes to Crack Down on Illegal Right-to-Repair Restrictions

Following an executive order from President Biden, the Federal Trade Commission voted 5-0 to intensify enforcement against unfair and illegal repair restrictions.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The FTC has voted to enforce illegal repair restrictions, which have prevented consumers from fixing their electronics without a seller’s help.

“While unlawful repair restrictions have generally not been an enforcement priority for the Commission for many years, the Commission has determined that it will devote more enforcement resources to combating these practices,” the FTC declared in a new policy statement. did.

The commission voted unanimously to adopt the new policy, which also outlines how it will proceed with enforcement. The FTC is first calling on the public to submit complaints about heavy repair restrictions that may violate federal warranty laws. If misconduct is found, the FTC will consider filing a lawsuit against the company restricting access.

The commission is going to investigate repair practices from technology vendors for antitrust violations, or whether they are unfair to consumers.

“For example, certain repair restrictions may constitute tying arrangements or monopolistic practices — such as denial of deal, special treats, or exclusionary designs — that violate the Sherman Act,” the FTC said. “In addition, the Commission will analyze any material claims made to buyers and users to determine whether there are any prohibited deceptive acts or practices.”

The policy was adopted after the FTC’s own report published in May found “little evidence to support manufacturers’ justification for repair restrictions.” Instead, restrictions can often deter consumers and independent repair shops from fixing electronics at low prices.

The same report also revealed that the FTC was considering “reviving regulatory” enforcement. President Biden then signed an executive order calling on the commission to crack down on repair restrictions.

The policy statement adopted does not name any company. But both Apple and farm equipment provider John Deere are among vendors notorious for imposing strict repair restrictions on their products. Instead, customers often have to rely on the companies’ official repair services, which can be costly.

“These kinds of restrictions can increase costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close business opportunities for independent repair shops, and create unnecessary electronic waste,” FTC Chair Leena Khan said on Wednesday. can delay timely repairs and reduce resilience.”

“The FTC has a variety of tools it can use to root out illegal repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement will commit us to move forward with renewed vigor on this issue,” he said.

iFixit, which has long pushed for the right to repair, supports today’s vote. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” iFixit CEO Kyle Weins said in a statement.

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