Last month President Joe Biden made headlines when he reiterated his support for “right-to-repair” rules, which he first announced in a July 2021 executive order (discussed in our previous article here). The executive order asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) to draft “right-to-repair” rules to increase consumers’ ability to repair equipment on their own or at aftermarket repair shops. The order also requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture consider new rules intended to increase industry competition by examining intellectual property rights and potentially giving farmers the right to repair farming equipment.

The “right to repair” generally refers to proposed legislation or regulations that ensure consumers, or aftermarket businesses, have the ability to repair, maintain, and/or modify the devices and equipment consumers purchase even where the manufacturer has attempted to require the consumers to use only “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM) replacement parts and services. As President Biden explained in remarks on January 24, 2021, “[d]enying the right to repair raises prices for consumers, means independent repair shops can’t compete for business.”[1]

In his comments, the president addressed what he considered as positive developments in right-to-repair space. As he noted, since his July 2021 executive order issued, the FTC has unanimously announced that it will ramp up enforcement against illegal repair restrictions.[2] In doing so, the Commission stated that “it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC and the FTC Act’s prohibitions on unfair and deceptive acts or practices.”[3] The Commission also urged the public to submit complaints of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act violations, which prohibits, among other things, tying a consumer’s product warranty to the use of a specific service provider or product, unless the FTC has issued a waiver.[4]

President Biden also alluded to self-implemented reform actions of Apple and Microsoft. In November 2021, Apple announced “Self Service Repair, which will allow customers who are comfortable with completing their own repairs access to Apple genius parts and tools.”[5] Apple’s announcement came just one month after Grist reported that Microsoft had “agreed to take concrete steps to facilitate the independent repair of its devices following pressure from its shareholders.”[6]

Less than two weeks after the president issued new comments on the right to repair, Montana Senator Jon Tester introduced his Agriculture Right to Repair Act — a bill aimed at “guarantee[ing] farmers the right to repair their own equipment and end[ing] current restrictions on the repair market.”[7]

Two days later, Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush introduced the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act, which seeks to “preserve consumer access to high quality, affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and independent repair shops have equal access to repair and maintenance tools and data as car companies and licensed dealerships.”[8] Manufacturers in all industries should prepare for similar potential legislative developments and continued FTC scrutiny, as the president doubles down on his support for the “right-to-repair” movement.

 


 

[1] Remarks by President Biden Before Meeting with White House Competition Council (Jan. 24, 2022), https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/01/24/remarks-by-president-biden-before-meeting-with-the-white-house-competition-council/.

[2] Press Release, Fed. Trade Comm’n, “FTC to Ramp Up Enforcement Against Illegal Repair Restrictions” (July 21, 2021), https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2021/07/ftc-ramp-law-enforcement-against-illegal-repair-restrictions.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] See Press Release, Apple, “Apple announces Self Service Repair” (Nov. 17, 2021), https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/11/apple-announces-self-service-repair/.

[6] Maddie Stone, “Bowing to investors, Microsoft will make its devices easier to fix,” Grist (Oct. 7, 2021).

[7] Press Release, U.S. Senator for Montana, “‘Right to Repair’ Farm Equipment and Empowering Family Farmers is Aim of Testers’ New Groundbreaking Legislation” (Feb. 1, 2022), https://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=8866#:~:text=As%20a%20part%20of%20his,restrictions%20on%20the%20repair%20market.

[8] Press Release, U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush, “Rush Introduces REPAIR Act to Ensure Equal Access to Auto Repair Data for Independent Repair Shops and Preserve Consumer Choice” (Feb. 3, 2022), https://rush.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rush-introduces-repair-act-ensure-equal-access-auto-repair-data.