President Biden executive order adds to right to repair pressure on Apple

A new President Biden executive order adds to the right to repair pressure on Apple. One of 72 initiatives in the order specifically calls on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to introduce rules against restrictions on DIY and third-party repairs.

While some of the text references the agriculture industry – and tractors in particular – there is a separate reference to “cell phone manufacturers” …

Back in May, the FTC published a report on “anti-competitive repair restrictions” that directly called out Apple.

One example given is Apple’s requirements for its authorized independent repair shop program. The contract stipulates repair technicians may be subject to ‘unannounced audits and inspections by Apple’ … And if independent repair shops leave the program, the contract actually includes a term that gives Apple the right to ‘continue inspecting repair shops for up to five years’ after it ends.

Apple also restricts access to service manuals, and has issued copyright take-down notices when they are posted online.

We noted earlier in the week that the White House was likely to respond by asking the FTC to introduce new rules to tackle the issue, and this has today happened. The briefing paper opens by describing the broader issue of limited competition in some markets.

For decades, corporate consolidation has been accelerating. In over 75% of U.S. industries, a smaller number of large companies now control more of the business than they did twenty years ago. This is true across healthcare, financial services, agriculture and more. That lack of competition drives up prices for consumers […]

Today’s historic Executive Order established a whole-of-government effort to promote competition in the American economy. The Order includes 72 initiatives by more than a dozen federal agencies to promptly tackle some of the most pressing competition problems across our economy. Once implemented, these initiatives will result in concrete improvements to people’s lives.

One clause in President Biden’s executive order addresses the right to repair issue with smartphones.

Cell phone manufacturers and others blocking out independent repair shops: Tech and other companies impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools.

In the Order, the President:

Encourages the FTC to issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.

Apple has already had the embarrassment of seeing the company’s cofounder Steve Wozniak speak up for the right to repair, and call on companies to “start doing the right things.”

Photo: Tabrez Syed/Unsplash

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