Phone, Gadget Repair 'Rules' to be Enforced by FTC

John Lister's picture

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has voted unanimously to enforce "right to repair" laws. The rules should make it harder for manufacturers to maintain monopolies over fixing gadgets such as phones.

The FTC follows an executive order from the President that covered economic competition issues in general but included a specific reference to smartphones. (Source:

The moves aim to tackle companies such as phone makers which either block or restrict third-party companies or device buyers from carrying out repairs. This involves a range of tactics such as refusing to supply components and even trying to keep repair manuals confidential through copyright measures.

The FTC vote doesn't make any new rules but rather means the agency now has the power to enforce (and assist other enforcing) existing laws. The resolution said the FTC would do so with "vigor".

Federal And State Laws Affected

These fall into three main areas, the first being existing federal antitrust laws. The second is existing state laws on the topic. The enforcement decision could mean other states bring in similar laws rather than assuming they'd be pointless without federal backing to enforce them.

The FTC also agreed to enforce the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act. That's a federal law from 1975 that says manufacturers aren't allowed to void a warranty just because a third party has worked on a product.

This law doesn't just ban such policies, but also says manufacturers can't tell consumers such a policy exist. The logic is that such claims could deter people from seeking a third-party repair even if the company knows it would have to live up to the warranty.

Manufacturer Warnings Overhyped

One reason the FTC has finally decided to put its weight behind such laws is that it produced a report suggesting manufacturers exaggerate the risks of third-party repairs, for example by claiming they could lead to data breaches or to batteries overheating and catching fire.

Another reason goes beyond consumer tech and covers concerns that manufacturers restricting repairs caused a serious risk that medical devices such as ventilators couldn't be fixed quickly enough during the pandemic. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you agree with the enforcement of right to repair laws? Should manufacturers have the right to void warranties if a user or third party opens up a device? Do you prefer to fix your own devices or use a third party service rather than rely on the manufacturer's repair services?

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davolente_10330's picture

High time this came about but here in the UK, I don't hear any mutterings of a similar nature. I know someone who worked as a well-qualified lab technician at a university and required a part for a certain piece of uni. kit, having successfully diagnosed a problem. The manufacturer refused to supply, on the grounds that he had not undertaken their (very expensive) maintenance course on said item. Nothing short of blackmail, I reckon. If someone has purchased something, it belongs to them, hook, line and sinker, and they should have a right to do anything they like with it - either repair it themselves or it should be THEIR choice as to who DOES repair it. Manufacturers have been bluffing it out with so-called "safety standards" for far too long.

mike's picture

It is about time that companies are forced to let owners of their equipment decide how and when to repair that equipment. And it is not just manufacturers of cell phones either. Several years ago the floppy drive in a laptop I owned failed. I determined the problem and contacted the manufacturer for a replacement part. I was told that I had to send the laptop in so their staff could determine the problem for $125 and then have them replace the floppy drive (I didn't ask how much that was). The bottom line was that I would be without my laptop for several weeks and pay them to replace the drive. I told them no thanks, I would just purchase a USB floppy drive for about $40 and be done on the off chance that I would actually need the floppy drive.