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FTC finds 'scant' reason for repair limits in right-to-repair report

A man repairs a car.
The right-to-repair movement has even bigger plans for 2021
Photo: Arseny Togulev on Unsplash

The Federal Trade Commission told Congress "there is scant evidence to support manufacturers' justifications for repair restrictions" in a Thursday report that promised to consider new rules or enforcement around consumers' right to repair their goods.

Following a 2019 workshop, the agency concluded that "access to information, manuals, spare parts, and tools" were among the proposals that were "well supported" to boost consumers' repair rights.

Consumer groups have long argued that manufacturers' limits on users' ability to repair items drives up costs and forces consumers to buy new goods before the useful lives of the items they already have are up — a problem that can be particularly acute with expensive electronic hardware.

Manufacturers can't condition warranties on consumers' using particular brands for repairs, but manufacturers have used a variety of other techniques to effectively curb repair rights, the FTC said, including limits on sharing parts and information, steering consumers to their own repair shops or partners, and enforcing software rights. Manufacturers say they are trying to protect intellectual property and device integrity.

The limits have become particularly acute during the pandemic when so many people are working and learning online, the FTC concluded.

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