The Federal Trade Commission formally promised to introduce illegal “right of redress” restrictions in a new Wednesday statement. The new policy could cause problems for smartphone manufacturers, such as Apple, which will severely hamper users ’ability to repair their own devices.
A new statement of redress released on Wednesday commits the FTC to “strongly” encourage competition in the product repair market, according to Chairman Lina Khan. The opinion, which was adopted unanimously, makes the agency a formal FTC practice whereby the agency uses its existing authorities to support independent repairers and reduce consumer repair costs.
“While the efforts of dominant companies to restrict the repair market are not new, changes in technology and the widespread use of software have created new opportunities for companies to restrict independent repair,” Khan said on Wednesday. “These types of restrictions can significantly increase consumer costs, stifle innovation, close business opportunities for independent repairers, cause unnecessary electronic scrap, delay repairs quickly and reduce flexibility.”
The opinion will not come until a few days after the White House adopted similar rules implementing order economic competition. In an order signed by President Joe Biden on July 9, the White House explicitly urges smartphone manufacturers to impose restrictions on self- and third-party repairs, making repairs more expensive and time-consuming, such as limiting parts distribution, diagnostics, and repair tools. “At Wednesday’s meeting, the FTC did not name any specific companies or industries that it could target in future investigations.
“The adoption of today’s policy statement makes it clear that the Commission is investigating illegal repair restrictions using Magnuson-Moss’s warranty law and other consumer protection laws, as well as competition law, to promote a fair and open repair market,” Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a statement on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s open session was only the second time Khan was confirmed as chairman of an agency that traditionally operates behind closed doors. In the first proceedings earlier this month, Khan’s FTC passed a couple of competition activitiesestablishing an agency to take more aggressive action against competition law.