News leaked on Tuesday that antitrust expert Lina Khan won’t just be joining the Federal Trade Commission as a new commissioner, she’ll also be appointed as the FTC’s new Chair. With Khan leading the FTC, the Right to Repair movement gains a powerful ally in the fight against anti-repair monopolies.
Khan, an associate professor at Columbia Law School, is a fierce advocate for consumers and a critic of our era’s gigantic tech monopolies. It’s a win for the Right to Repair movement—Khan has investigated the anti-competitive practices of big tech companies, understands how these practices harm consumers and stifle competition, and knows how to mobilize government resources to stand up for consumers’ rights, including the right to fix your stuff.
Prior to her FTC appointment, Khan authored an influential 2017 paper on Amazon’s intricate, nigh inescapable commerce platform, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which called for updates to antitrust laws to address it. And, her work was essential to a 2020 House Subcommittee hearing on digital market antitrust. That hearing revealed Apple’s internal debate over repairability, along with a broader pattern of prioritizing ecosystem control above all else.
Last month, the FTC’s Nixing the Fix report found that manufacturers’ repair restrictions were hurting small business, infringing on consumer rights, and furthering the global e-waste problem. That was before Khan was appointed Chair. With her appointment, Right to Repair gains perhaps its highest-profile advocate, and people get a committed advocate to their right to fix the things they own, regardless of what the biggest companies would prefer.
What more could we want? A fully staffed commission—with Commissioner Rohit Chopra heading to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the FTC will be short a fifth commissioner. We urge the Biden administration to fill that seat ASAP, so the FTC can get to work on protecting our repair rights.
Note: This post has been updated to clarify that Commissioner Chopra will be leaving the FTC for a position at the CFPB, leaving a vacancy for a fifth FTC commissioner.