A sweeping executive order aimed at promoting economic competition and signed Friday by President Joe Biden called on the Federal Trade Commission to institute rules to curb anticompetitive restrictions that limit consumers’ ability to repair gadgets on their own terms.
Tucked into the executive order that covered 72 initiatives to promote competition in the US economy, Biden specifically asked the FTC to crack down on “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”
The order is a significant win for the right to repair advocates who have long championed a consumer’s choice to have their technology fixed either by third parties or on their own, rather than solely by the manufacturer. Right to repair argues that anyone should have access to the OEM parts, manuals, and software needed to perform those repairs. Major gadget makers have lobbied to prevent this kind of repair accessibility, but the right to repair movement has been picking up momentum in recent years.
Specifically, Biden took aim at cell phone makers and other tech companies, including tractor manufacturers, that “impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools.”
In a statement, US PIRG’s senior right to repair campaign director Nathan Proctor said it was “a big day for the right to fix our stuff.”
“More repair choices will protect the environment by cutting down on the amount of new electronics we make and old stuff we toss,” Proctor said. “More choices help save money and cut down-time waiting for the manufacturer’s technician, which is especially important for farmers on tight planting or harvesting schedules. This is a win.”