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January 28, 2022

Right to repair will anger US manufacturers

By MarketLine

In a White House speech in late January, President Biden again raised the topic of a consumer’s ‘right to repair’ their own products in an effort to aid economic growth and competition. Biden said “Capitalism without competition is not capitalism; it’s exploitation”, a particularly bold statement addressing major industry players.

Biden following through on right to repair executive order issued in 2021

Joe Biden’s executive order was given in July 2021 and was aimed at companies like John Deere which prevent farmers from fixing their own purchased equipment. The move will prevent major manufacturers forming repair monopolies not just for agriculture but across retail and consumer electronic products.

Leader of the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Nathan Proctor, who has long backed the campaign, highlighted this as the first time a President has approached the subject. The US government usually treads a fine line when publicly denouncing the practice of major industry players, particularly those of Big Tech and Big Agriculture.

Negative impact expected for major industry players

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agreed to prioritise addressing restrictions on home repairs and while consumers will absolutely welcome the change, there is some pushback.

In Australia similar reforms have been discussed and major agriculture firm John Deere argued that in the machinery industry, serious harm could come from repairs not being carried out by accredited professionals. On top of the physical harm to individuals carrying out repair, those against the right to repair argue that intellectual property and copyright will be harmed which will affect long-term business.

Undoubtedly this will be an issue, as it sets a precedent in which the likes of major industry players like Apple and John Deere may be expected to publish supporting documents that give away the secrets to their respective technologies.

Big Tech willingly addressing the matter before being forced to

In Biden’s January speech, he praised Apple and Microsoft’s efforts following last year’s executive order, while highlighting the effect of an anticompetitive economy.

Apple announced plans to allow its customers to repair their own devices with the sale of its official spare parts planned for sale. Much of the current repairs run through a grey market, using often imported non-genuine parts from Asia. Apple will also release repair guides for consumers to aid them through the process.

The Apple iPhone 13 featured a software-block that disabled features such as FaceID if the phone had undergone unofficial independent repair. The company has since promised to undo this feature following the right to repair order.