Biden Signs 'Right to Repair' Order as Part of Pro-Competition Package

President Biden has signed an order that should make it easier for consumers to repair broken products without relying on the manufacturer.

James R. Hood
James R. Hood

“This is a big day for the right to fix our stuff,” said U.S. PIRG's Nathan Proctor as President Biden signed an executive order that should make it easier for consumers to repair cell phones, farm tractors and a wide range of other products without relying on the manufacturer.

The "right to repair" measure is part of a raft of 72 different initiatives that are iintended to “promote competition in the American economy.”

Included is order calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to "issue rules against anti-competitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.” A fact sheet from the White House singles out cell phones and tractors as specific products subject to the order.

The new directive to the FTC comes a couple of months after the commission delivered a 54-page report to Congress that concluded “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions.”

In a fact sheet, the White House said that companies’ restrictions on “the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools” makes repairs more expensive and time-consuming for the end user. The order says such restrictions by tech companies are “anticompetitive” and urges the FTC to force companies to allow their customers to use independent repair shops to fix the devices they own or allow them to perform repairs themselves.

Environmental benefits

“More repair choices will protect the environment by cutting down on the amount of new electronics we make and old stuff we toss," Proctor said. "More choices help save money and cut down time waiting for the manufacturer's technician, which is especially important for farmers on tight planting or harvesting schedules.”

“Until recently, American farmers fixed their own equipment when it broke, or they took it to their repair shop of choice. But over the last few decades, manufacturers have made it harder and harder to do this, all but forcing farmers to take their broken machinery to a licensed dealership for repairs – which can be inconvenient, restrictive, and expensive,” said Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union.

"After suffering corporate abuse for so many years, it is reassuring that farmers may finally get a level playing field. This executive order will offer them more autonomy in their relationships with corporations, protections from mistreatment, fairer and more accurate labeling, the right to repair their machinery, and more robust local markets," Larew said.

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James R. Hood

Jim is a publishing entrepreneur and journalist. He founded ConsumerAffairs in 1998 and earlier was the founder of Zapnews, after holding executive posts at the Associated Press.