The Federal Trade Commission is planning to ask the public whether energy-efficiency labels on home appliances should also include information on repairing the tech as a way to help address its environmental impact, the agency said Monday.
The request for comment comes as FTC officials look skeptically at many restrictions on consumers' ability to repair the products they own. The commission's stance has been a boost for the so-called right-to-repair movement and helped nudge companies like Apple and Samsung to offer at-home, DIY fixes for smart devices like phones.
The right-to-repair movement has long looked beyond the highest-tech consumer gadgets, however, and modern home appliances increasingly have digital displays, internet connectivity, and even built-in smart assistants. Advocates of repair rights have also said that keeping devices from getting wheezy and ending up in a landfill is an environmental win.
The FTC said that, as part of seeking input on potential changes to the labeling rule, new language could also address the fact that many consumers buy their appliances online, while regulations only require manufacturers to put labels on physical devices such as dishwashers and refrigerators. In addition, the FTC asked about broadening the types of appliances that need to have the familiar yellow EnergyGuide tags, potentially adding clothes dryers, air purifiers, cooktops, electric spas, and others to the rules.
Still, any final move by the commission, which is already eying an expansive regulatory agenda that threatens to require years of work at the expense of other priorities, could be far in the future. The FTC has also previously sought comments on changes that wouldn't have brought in label format or repairability.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the FTC's announcement. This story was updated on Oct. 18, 2022.