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Right to Repair gets an important ally: the FTC

You could soon have an easier time fixing your phone.

Published onJuly 21, 2021

  • The FTC has voted to crack down on Right to Repair violations in the US.
  • Companies that restrict your repairs could face legal action.
  • It could be easier to fix your phone and get third-party repairs.

The US government is acting swiftly in the wake of President Biden’s Right to Repair order. The Federal Trade Commission has voted to “ramp up” law enforcement against manufacturers that make it harder for individual people and businesses to repair their devices.

The FTC vowed to focus on Right to Repair violations that break antitrust laws. It also invited any warnings about Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act violations that force you to use a specific service or product to keep your warranty intact.

Related: Should we tolerate hard-to-fix devices?

FTC Chair Lina Khan, a well-known critic of large tech companies, said it was important to fight restrictions on your right to repair products. These limitations not only raise prices, create electronic waste, and limit third-party repair shops, but “stifle innovation” and “undermine resiliency,” Khan said.

The Commission didn’t name any target companies or specific offenses, but it did point to practices you often see from companies like Apple, Samsung, and even tractor giant John Deere. This includes glued-in-place components, limited access to parts, and little to no access to diagnostic software. Companies will often restrict third-party repairs under claims that sub-par or insecure hardware could render your gadgets unsafe.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that companies will be forced to rethink difficult-to-repair phones and PCs. It could discourage companies from designing products to thwart Right to Repair efforts, though. It The FTC could also demand that device makers give independent repair shops access to many of the same tools. That could not only make it easier to get service beyond official stores, but to fix things yourself in a pinch.

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