Repair news from the USA: Biden's Executive Order, FTC policy push & the Woz

There’s been a lot of positive Right to Repair news coming out of the USA lately, so I thought it would be handy to offer a quick summary of some of the bigger moments…

Biden signs a repair-friendly Executive Order

President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order asking the US Federal Trade Commission to draft new rules to address “some of the most pressing competition problems across our economy”.

While the executive order’s main focus seemed to be on agriculture and other industries such as car and home appliances, it also calls out a range of anti-competitive practices affecting the technology sector including repair restrictions put in place by mobile phone manufacturers and others.

:eu: The European campaign has a summary of what we can do in Europe to promote competition.

While this is big news for repair, it remains an Executive Order (meaning not an actual regulation yet) and the President has not ordered the agencies under his direction to implement his ideas but only shared recommendations and suggestions. It remains to be seen how and whether this order will be translated into real initiatives or regulations. But one government agency already seems to be gearing up: the FTC…

The FTC votes to tackle anti-repair practices

Following Biden’s Executive Order and their previous report about anti-repair practices, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a policy statement promising to take action against companies found to impose unfair restrictions on repair.

Today’s policy statement is a significant and important step in making clear that the FTC is dedicated to eliminating anti-competitive and anti-consumer restrictions and empowering all consumers with choice and access to repair their products and extend the life of expensive but indispensable equipment
– Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, FTC Commissioner

In practice, this means they will:

  1. :mega: Urge the public to submit complaints and provide other information to aid in greater enforcement of existing warranty regulations.
  2. :mag_right: Scrutinise repair restrictions for violations of the antitrust laws
  3. :balance_scale: Assess whether repair restrictions constitute unfair acts or practices
  4. :books: combat unlawful repair restrictions, coordinating with state law enforcement and policymakers to ensure compliance and to update existing law and regulation to advance the goal of open repair markets

This could be a really big deal and you can read the full statement here (PDF).

You can also find good write-ups from Wired and iFixit

And for the really hardcore, here’s the full recording of the session, courtesy of the wonderful Jessa Jones.

From a European perspective, it’s interesting to note that Right to Repair in the USA tends to focus primarily on competition law (which makes sense given lots of manufacturers are US companies). In Europe, our focus tends to be on product or consumer policy, often via environmental measures. But it’s important not to forget the competition angle too.

Steve Wozniak speaks up for the Right to Repair

Finally, Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Steve Jobs, said in a moving video that he’s fully in support of the movement to make it easier for users to fix their tech gadget themselves or through a third-party.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN1djPMooVY

Let’s hope this will trigger endorsements for Right to Repair from European tech figures as well :crossed_fingers:

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