President Biden Orders FTC To Enact Consumer-Friendly Right-To-Repair Policies

Smartphone Parts
Advocates of a consumer's right to repair their electronics and other equipment without negative repercussions from the manufacturer will be happy to know what the US government is up to—President Joe Biden plans to sign an executive order instructing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to write up rules in favor of right-to-repair policies.

The effort comes on the heels of similar rules going into effect in the UK, whereby manufacturers are required to make spare parts available to consumers who buy certain electrical appliances. Officials hope this will extend the life of devices by up to a decade, while also benefiting the environment with less electronic waste.

However, many electronics are frustratingly left out, including smartphones and laptops. As currently constructed in the UK, the right-to-repair laws only apply to dishwashers, washing machines and washer-dryers, refrigeration appliances, television, and certain "other electronic displays." That said, the European Commission is planning to expand the scope to include phones, laptops, and tablets.

As for the US, it will be up to the FTC to outline what types of products are and are not covered. However, President Biden is expected to include smartphones specifically in his order.

Let's hope it happens. Apple in particular has taken measures to make its iPhone and iPad products difficult to repair at home, like using so-called kill switches. This is ostensibly to protect its IP and because its electronics are deemed too complex for the average person to tinker with. Critics, however, would say it is part a planned obsolescence model.

New rules would be a start to reversing this kind of behavior, and facilitating DIY repairs. There already exists handy resources for DIY repair (shout out to the folks at iFixIt), even though some manufacturers deliberately make the task more difficult than it needs to be.

Consumer electronics are not the only items the legislation will focus on. The order is also expected to focus on farm equipment, as tractor repair can be an expensive proposition due to proprietary repair tools, and software and diagnostics designed to lock out external parties from fixing them.

We'll know more about the new rules soon, as the executive order is expected to be released later this week.