The FTC Votes Unanimously to Enforce Right to Repair
The Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to enforce laws around the Right to Repair, thereby ensuring that US consumers will be able to repair their own electronic and automotive devices. The FTC's endorsement of the rules is not a surprise outcome; the issue of Right to Repair has been a remarkably bipartisan one, and the FTC itself issued a lengthy report in May that blasted manufacturers for restricting repairs. The FTC vote is another win for the Right to Repair movement in the US, which has been led by advocacy groups like the US Public Interest Research Group, as well as private companies like iFixit, the California-based company that sells gadget repair kits and publishes repair manuals for DIY tinkerers. Repair advocates say consumers should have access to all of the data that their personal devices collect, and that independent repair shops should have access to the same software diagnostic tools that "Authorized" shops have. During the comments portion of the FTC hearing today, a representative for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute claimed that "Right to Repair legislation fails to consider consumer safety and environmental protection with respect to our industry's products as an example, it would allow for modification of and tampering with safety controls of powered lawn mower blades required under law by the CPSC, as well as emissions controls required under law by the EPA.". Ahead of the vote today, the Consumer Technology Association-which hosts the annual CES tech bonanza in Las Vegas-sent a letter to the FTC commissioners urging collaboration, rather than an "Extensive rulemaking process," citing intellectual property rights as a thorny issue at the heart of Right to Repair. It's worth noting that in the FTC's report in May, which was the culmination of data gathered after the commission hosted a "Nixing the Fix" panel in 2019, the FTC said there was "Scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions." The report detailed a number of instances in which manufacturers may have overstated the risks of thermal runaway or personal data breaches tied to device repairs.