Passed in a 5-0 decision, the FTC’s new policy is designed to make it easier for consumers to fix their own devices and also pledges to step up investigations of companies suspected of having unlawful repair restrictions. That’s something the FTC admitted has not been an “enforcement priority for the Commission for a number of years.”
No new laws have been set in stone just yet, but the FTC’s new policy outlines five things it’s looking to improve going forward. The first is that the FTC will now prioritize investigations into unlawful repair restrictions covered under laws like the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Additionally, the FTC says it will urge the public to submit complaints and info about companies that are potentially violating relevant laws, while also keeping a closer eye on private litigation to help decide which companies may require further investigation.
The FTC says it will also “scrutinize repair restrictions for violations of the antitrust laws” that may violate the Sherman Act or promote monopolistic practices. On top of that, the FTC says it also plans to examine what kind of repair restrictions are unfair, and will “analyze any material claims made to purchasers” in order to determine if those practices are in violation of the law.
And as a matter of practice going forward, the FTC claims it will use an “interdisciplinary approach” to use more resources and a wider range of expertise to better tackle unlawful repair restrictions, both federally and at the state level with help from local officials.
As part of the FTC’s discussions today, FTC Chair Lina Khan said: “These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency. The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor.”
So while it remains to be seen how big tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others will respond to the FTC’s new policies, this latest resolution signals a big change regarding how aggressive the government will be when it comes to supporting people’s abilities to tinker with and repair their own gadgets.