Are “Right to Repair” bills redundant?
“Right to Repair” has been in the news quite a bit over the last few years. Several states have introduced bills pushing the idea. Apple has been one of the strongest opponents to these bills, as well as a trigger for the creation of the bills. It turns out, there may already be a law on the books that addresses this issue, and the FTC has just sent out reminders of this fact.
Many companies require consumers to use “Authorized Service Centers” to repair broken products. The use of non-authorized repairs will void warranties. As consumers, we all know this already. We’ve been trained in this by the companies that sell us our products. We are told this in instruction manuals and stickers on products. It’s generally not even questioned, until something breaks. When something breaks we’re generally left with the decision, do we pay the exorbitant repair fees? Or take it to a local repair shop knowing that our warranty will be voided?
Apple has taken these warnings to a whole new level. In the past Apple has gone to the extent of creating new fasteners that require proprietary screwdrivers to even get into their products. Apple followed that up with the notorious “Error 53” which would brick user’s phones who had their phones repaired by third party repairers. While Apple has taken tactics such as these, they’ve also fought against “Right to Repair” bills in the courts.
This week, the FTC sent out warning letters to six major manufacturers of automobiles, cellular devices, and video game systems. These warnings were reminding the manufacturers of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This act was enacted in 1975 and governs warranties on consumer products. The FCC warns that unless companies provide parts or services for free, or receives a waiver from the FTC, statements that threaten to void warranties due to third party repairs are prohibited.
“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” said Thomas B. Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The FTC has asked these six companies to review their promotional and warranty materials to ensure that use of such deceptive language is halted, and states that these companies must comply with the law. In addition, the FTC staff will be reviewing these company’s websites in 30 days to ensure compliance. Failure to comply will result in law enforcement action.
The six companies are unnamed, however I’m sure we can all list more than six companies that include these warnings with their products. We can be sure that the effects of these warnings will ripple throughout all US industries, and I assume many companies will be attempting to receive a waiver from the FTC.