The FTC’s (kick-ass) Right to Repair report
It’s been nearly two years since the FTC’s Nixing the Fix workshop on how corporations have sabotage our right to repair. Finally, the Commission has issued its report, and it’s hugely vindicating for R2R advocates.
If you don’t have time to read the 56-page report, check out Ifixit’s cheat-sheet, which highlights the salient points, namely:
- Companies routinely violate federal law by voiding their customers’ warranties in retaliation for seeking independent repair
- Anti-repair tactics more heavily harm Black people and communities of color
- The pandemic made independent repair sabotage even more important
- Companies sabotage repair by: designing products to make it harder to fix them; withholding parts and manuals; targeting customers with anti-repair FUD; abusing patent and trademark; using DRM; and imposing abusive EULAs on customers.
The Commission found that the manufacturers claims about why they should monopolize repair are bullshit:
- Providing independent repair info doesn’t harm manufacturers’ IP rights
- The data need to make repair doesn’t qualify as a trade secret
The Commission also found that the real safety concern with independent repair is that manufacturers’ sabotage makes it harder for indie repairers to fix devices safely, and the answer isn’t to ban indie repair — it’s to ban sabotage.
The FTC also rejects cybersecurity FUD about independent repair: “the record contains no empirical evidence to suggest that independent repair shops are more or less likely than authorized repair shops to compromise or misuse customer data.”
As well as arguments that independent repair inflicts “reputational harm” and liability on manufacturers: “Manufacturers provided no empirical evidence to support their concerns about reputational harm or potential liability resulting from faulty third party repairs.”
The FTC wants to hear from you if a manufacturer has voided (or threatened to void) your warranty after you got independent repair. This is illegal.
They’re also proposing new regulations to ban manufacturers’ repair sabotage on the grounds that it represents unfair competition. The Commission’s goal is now “[to ensure] consumers have choices when they need to repair products that they purchase and own.”
Cory Doctorow (craphound.com) is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering; and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias.