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FTC votes in favour of ‘right to repair’

Currently, the existing practices prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products

India could benefit from such a law to arrest it's mounting e-waste increase (Source: Reuters) India could benefit from such a law to arrest it's mounting e-waste increase (Source: Reuters)

Addressing a major pain point where manufacturers' policies make it extremely difficult and expensive for device owners to repair their products, the USA Federal Trade Commission body has unanimously voted in favour to speed up law enforcement against repair restrictions.

Currently, the existing practices prevent small businesses, workers, consumers, and even government entities from fixing their own products. By enforcing restrictions that violate antitrust or consumer protection laws, the commission is taking important steps to restore the right to repair.

"Right to repair" could influence similar laws across the world just like the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is finding traction. India could benefit from such a law to arrest it's mounting e-waste increase precipitated by either end of product lifecycle or a manufacturer's planned obsolescence.

The commission voted 5-0 to approve the policy statement during an open commission meeting live-streamed on its website. According to the FTC, the policy statement adopted today is aimed at manufacturers' practices that make it extremely difficult for purchasers to repair their products or shop around for other service providers to do it for them.

Earlier, FTC had identified numerous types of repair restrictions that made consumer products harder to fix and maintain, which includes using adhesives that make parts difficult to replace, limiting the availability of spare parts, and making diagnostic software unavailable.

Such restrictions on repairs of devices, equipment, and other products have increased the burden on consumers and businesses. In addition, manufacturers and sellers may be restricting competition for repairs in a number of ways that might violate the law.

The commission said it would target repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws enforced by the FTC or the FTC Act's prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

"These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunities for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency," FTC Chair Lina Khan said during an open commission meeting. "The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and today's policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor."

Technology companies have been practising such policies for a long and using the new-age technologies such as using software has even created it more difficult for independent repairs. And companies discontinue support for older products, which also contributes to e-waste.

Even though the pre-owned and refurbished gadget market is big in India, a similar 'Right to Repair' policy is the need of the hour.

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