Last year, the FTC adopted a policy statement supporting the "right to repair" that pledged beefed-up enforcement efforts and opened the way to new regulations. The regulators maintained that anti-competitive restrictions have steered consumers into isolated repair networks or led them to replace products before the end of their useful lives. The idea was to make Americans freer to repair their broken cellphones, computers, videogame consoles or even tractors themselves, or to use independent repair shops.
“Consumers deserve choices when it comes to repairing their products, and independent dealers deserve a chance to compete,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau, said in a prepared statement Thursday. “These orders require Harley and Westinghouse to fix their warranties, come clean with consumers and ensure fair competition with independent providers. Other companies that squelch consumers’ right to repair should take notice.”
Unavailable parts, instruction manuals and diagnostic software and tools, product design restrictions and locks on software embedded in devices have made many consumer products harder to fix and maintain, regulators and industry critics say. Do-it-yourself repairs often require specialized tools, hard-to-obtain parts and access to diagnostic software that’s guarded by manufacturers.
“The rubber is hitting the road on the FTC’s new focus on protecting your right to repair," Nathan Proctor, senior right-to-repair campaign director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement. “Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse are not the only companies that use the threat of a voided warranty to restrict repair. The FTC’s actions ... send a clear signal that it’s time to stop violating consumer rights and honor right-to-repair protections."
Spokespeople for Harley-Davidson didn't immediately respond to a request for comment; Westinghouse spokespeople couldn't be reached.
The proposed consent agreement will be opened to public comment for 30 days, after which the FTC will decide whether to make it final.
The FTC asks consumers to report possible warranty abuse or similar violations to www.reportfraud.ftc.gov