President Joe Biden is reportedly gearing up to issue an executive order compelling the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to draft new “right to repair” rules — a set of regulations that will protect consumers’ ability to repair their equipment on their own and at independent shops.
While the FTC will get to decide the final shape of the forthcoming rules, Bloomberg reports that the recommended language will specifically cite mobile phone manufacturers and defense contractors as potential areas for regulation. Under the current policies, consumers — and the farming industry, specifically — are oftentimes prohibited from making repairs on their own devices thanks to software locks, end-user license agreements and the use of proprietary parts that have functionally formed repair “monopolies” that small business owners are forced to resort to using when they need their equipment fixed.
As Motherboard reports, activists have lobbied for years for state-level legislation that would make it easier for the average person to repair their own devices, but have historically faced opposition from companies like Caterpillar, John Deere, and Apple, which have used aggressive lobbying tactics to ensure that there are as many logistical hurdles in place as possible in order to all but ensure that self-repairs are unfeasible.
If and when Biden does release new guidance — as he expected to in the coming days — it will be the first time in U.S. history that a president has intervened in the repair monopoly issue.
During a White House briefing on Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the order would give consumers “the right to repair their own equipment how they like.” Those comments follow a Friday statement by White House economic adviser Brian Deese, who said that the order was designed with the express intention of driving “greater competition in the economy, in service of lower prices for American families and higher wages for American workers.”
The order is also expected to include a number of other provisions aimed at alleviating stressors on the agriculture industry, including rules that would allow cow, pig, and poultry farmers to sue large processors that try to underpay or retaliate against them.
“We’re thrilled to see the Biden administration step up to protect farmers from repair monopolies,” Nathan Proctor, a right to repair advocate with consumer protection group US PIRG, told Motherboard. “This order should be the first step in giving farmers a choice for who repairs their equipment. This is great news for farmers, and it’s great news for everyone concerned with repair monopolies. It also shows that the Right to Repair campaign is continuing to move forward, and win new support.”