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Biden Admin Enters Right To Repair Fray

Weighing in decidedly on the side of those who want to see more DIY repair options for consumers, the Biden Administration in early July issued an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to draft regulations that would make it easier for consumers to repair their own products and challenge manufacturer policies concerning authorized service personnel and service equipment availability, among other items. The order is part of a sweeping effort to promote more consumer-friendly policies while limiting corporate consolidation and increasing competition in multiple areas including net neutrality, prescription drugs and even airline refunds, among others.

Led by cell phones and of course autos in the consumer sector and farm tractors in the industrial sector, right-to-repair activists have a compelling argument that those who own a piece of equipment should have the right to have it fixed by whomever they want, while product manufacturers say allowing complete access to all areas of increasingly complex operating systems brings on concerns for operator safety, emissions controls and general liability. Supporters of the executive order point to an FTC report from March 2021 that looked at the issue and, among other findings, stated manufacturers were purposefully making it difficult for consumers and independent service centers by limiting access to spare parts, schematics and specialized service tools.

Reacting to the order, Equipment Dealers Assn. President and CEO Kim Rominger said the organization remains firmly opposed to right to repair initiatives—and the group has a good track record of heading off legislation in member states. He also noted than an executive order of such magnitude is only the first step in a long and arduous process.

“The EDA, our regional affiliates, and coalition partners continue to oppose all ‘Right to Repair’ policy initiatives,” he said, adding, “To date, we have fought back against Right to Repair bills more than 30 times and we have won each time.” Rominger emphasized that executive orders are not legislation and are only directives to a federal agency (in this case, the FTC). Implementation of an executive order is subject to a rule-making process that can take a considerable amount of time, especially when the rule impacts multiple industries.

“If the executive order to the FTC is created based upon false information, the EDA and our coalition partners will have an opportunity to correct that false information. Further, our industry will have the opportunity to comment and potentially challenge the rule,” Rominger said. So rest assured, the EDA and our coalition partners will be a part of the rulemaking process and we will continue to fight for the best business environment for equipment dealers.”

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