The FTC is voting to use its leverage to make it easier for consumers to repair their phones.

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The Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to put more emphasis on the right of consumers to repair devices such as smartphones, home appliances, cars and even farm equipment, arguing that big businesses have cost consumers dearly. by making these products more difficult to repair.

The five commissioners – two Republicans and three Democrats – voted to support a policy statement that promises to explore whether companies that make it harder for consumers to repair products violate antitrust or consumer laws, and step up l law enforcement against offenders.

“These types of restrictions can dramatically increase costs for consumers, stifle innovation, shut down business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary e-waste, delay timely repairs and undermine resilience,” Lina said. Khan, chairman of the committee. “The FTC has a range of tools it can use to eliminate illegal repair restrictions, and today’s policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor. “

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The committee’s vote on Wednesday is in line with President Biden’s policies to prioritize initiatives to increase competition among large companies and limit their power. In an executive order this month, Biden urged the commission to crack down on companies that make it harder for consumers to have their equipment or electronics repaired by third-party stores. He has targeted manufacturers of farm equipment – tractor maker John Deere, for example – who use licensing agreements that prevent farmers from repairing their tractors themselves.

Wednesday’s vote was a victory for the “right to redress” movement, which has long advocated pro-redress policies at federal, state and local levels. Nathan Proctor, senior director of the Right to Repair campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, celebrated the agency’s decision in a statement.

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“They are committed to helping states make it right to fix improvements and tackle illegal behavior by manufacturers,” Mr. Proctor said. “The FTC is no longer on the sidelines.”

But TechNet, an advocacy group representing tech companies like Google and Apple, criticized the commission’s decision, saying it would only compromise consumer safety.

“The FTC’s decision to update an efficient and secure system that allows consumers to repair products they rely on for their health, safety and well-being, including phones, computers, fire alarms, medical devices, and home security systems, will have many – permanent impacts on technology and cybersecurity, ”said Carl Holshouser, senior vice president of TechNet, in a statement.

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He sent a report to Congress in May, titled “Nixing the Fix,” in which he described how companies are designing products to be more difficult to repair and how they have narrowed down repair options in order to entice them. consumers to buy new products more frequently. There is “little evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions,” according to the report.

He also noted that the limitations imposed by companies hurt the consumer, especially communities of color and low-income communities. According to the report, the cost of purchasing a new product or the difficulty of repairing a product may fall disproportionately on small businesses owned by people of color.

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