An executive order signed by U.S. President Joe Biden has called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to institute rules to facilitate customers repairing their own technology, in what appears to be a major win for the right-to-repair movement. It was reported several days ago that the Biden was gearing up to sign the executive order, following after both the EU and the UK introduced their own right-to-repair laws.
Inside the long executive order signed by Biden, it asks the FTC to “limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs—such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors.” Later on, it specifically calls out cell phone manufacturers blocking out independent repair shops too. It says that tech companies and other companies are imposing “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.”
This is a significant win for the right-to-repair movement, which argues that consumers should have a choice in how they repair their products. Regular consumers should have access to OEM parts so that they can make the replacement themselves, or ask someone that they know who has the technical know-how to do so. Big tech companies argue against it, largely as it means that consumers may go elsewhere for a repair for their technical product.
In a press briefing last week, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the new rules would give users “the right to repair their own equipment how they like,” and is designed to drive “greater competition in the economy, in service of lower prices for American families and higher wages for American workers.” It remains to be seen what the new rules will look like, but this is a big win for consumers no matter what.
To be clear, an executive order signed by a U.S. President isn’t law but rather directs executive agencies to follow the President’s direction on drafting new rules and regulations that are permitted under the statutes signed by Congress granting that agency their authority. Thus, it’s possible for a future President to overturn this executive order or narrow its scope. Right-to-repair will need to be drafted into a law proposed by the U.S. Congress and then signed by the President for right-to-repair to truly become part of U.S. law. Still, this is good progress.
Featured image by Kilian Seiler on Unsplash