Activism

Over 15,000 People Want the FTC to Fight for Our Right to Repair

The Federal Trade Commission has held a workshop, heard awful repair stories, and now has received 15,059 signatures asking them to enforce a fair repair market. iFixit, along with US PIRG and Repair.org, delivered the signatures to FTC commissioners today calling on the commission to step up enforcement and protect everyone’s right to repair.

Federal Trade Commission building
Image by David / Flickr CC

The joint petition asks the FTC to stop companies pushing customers into authorized repair contracts, voiding warranties in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and refusing to sell replacement parts, tools, and manuals to independent repair techs. It also seeks new rules against restrictive, unreadable end-user license agreements (or EULAs), exclusive repair arrangements, and product designs that intentionally sabotage repair.

“Big tech companies have been trying to control the repair market and suppress competition for far too long, boxing out small repair businesses and harming consumers,” said iFixit‘s US Policy Lead Kerry Sheehan. “It’s time for the FTC to use their powers for good and take action against unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive practices impacting repair, but the question is: ‘Will they?’”

It’s a busy week in the US repair movement. All this month, the Copyright Office is hearing testimony on proposed exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. Advocates, including iFixit, US PIRG, and Repair.org, want to make the jobs of researchers, preservationists, and fixers legal whenever they work around the software blocking their work. Sheehan, along with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens, testified Tuesday.

If the FTC looked around, they would find that far too many companies put up artificial blocks against repair, and that the US is behind the curve in clearing them out.

“The FTC must take action to ensure that Americans have the option to fix products they own—or have independent repair people or shops fix them,” said US PIRG Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “These issues have come to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we, as a country have enough computers to make sure kids can attend classes remotely—but because of manufacturer restrictions and limits on repair, we don’t have enough working computers.”

A US PIRG report released in January found that American families would save $40 billion every year if they could use electronics for 50 percent longer, including the cost of additional repairs. That’s more than $300 per family.

“Repair is essential—and repair is under existential threat from over-reaching manufacturers,” said Repair.org Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne. “If regulators and lawmakers don’t stand up, our devices will lock out repair, manufacturers will continue to charge an arm and a leg, and consumers will be forced to pay up.”