A Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) said it intends to combat restrictions on the right to repair electronic devices, referring to the impositions made by manufacturers to work with the technical assistance of their products only on their own or with authorized stores.

The "right to repair", as the theme of the debate says, is something that has been discussed for over a year in several countries: in March 2020, the European Union has expressed interest in forcing manufacturers to ease impediments that did not allow users to promote their own device repairs, for example.

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Image shows Lina Khan, director of the FTC, who pledged to regulate the right to independent repair of electronic devices in the US
Lina Khan, current director of the FTC, has pledged to fight product repair restrictions imposed by manufacturers in the name of a more flexible market. Image: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

The situation got worse for companies in June 2021, more than a year later, when the New York State Senate in the US sanctioned law which facilitates the right to repair. The following month, US President Joe Biden said he recommended to the FTC that order a bill to turn the New York idea into something at the federal level.

All of this has proven to be a “stone in the shoe” of companies that create consumer items, such as Apple: the owner of the iPhone is known worldwide for making excessively bureaucratic a simple process such as a smartphone screen change, for example. Her situation, by the way, is even more remarkable considering that Steve “Woz” Wozniak, co-founder of the company alongside the late Steve Jobs, favors this legislation.

The impediment cited by the FTC to the right to independent repair is not bad in a technical sense: following the example of Apple itself, which only works with its own repairs or assistance duly authorized by its extensive sieve, the Cupertino company does not supply its own manuals or tools. commercial form appliances. That's because their products typically involve storing sensitive information, such as bank passwords or credentials to access personal systems — from social media to work software passwords.

However, the downside is that such restriction on repairs makes you have to look — a lot — who can provide this kind of help when the subject is something simpler, like a leaked battery or bad contact in some input. Not only is the time excessively spent, but the price tends to be higher, as it is calculated based on what Apple indicates.

On the 9th, the White House endorsed, through an executive order, the creation of a new set of rules, allowing technical assistance to be provided by the market in a more comprehensive manner. With the decision, the current director of the FTC, Lina Khan, said last Wednesday (21) that she intends to "encourage competition in the repair products market with vigor".

In practical terms: The White House resolution and the unanimous approval of Lina Khan's speech allow the FTC to use its federal regulatory powers to support independent technical assistance stores in an expectation of lowering the prices of this type of service to the consumer.

“While dominant companies' efforts to restrict the repair market are nothing new, changes in technology and the more prevalent use of software have created new opportunities for these companies to further limit the right to repair,” said the statement signed by Khan. "These restrictions significantly increase the cost of repair for consumers, in addition to inhibiting innovation, closing business opportunities for independent professionals, creating unnecessary e-waste, delaying repairs and undermining resilience."

In the executive order, President Joe Biden quoted smartphone makers by name, saying they "impose restrictions on the right to outsource repair, making them more expensive and time-consuming, whether by restricting parts distribution, making diagnostics difficult and isolating tools."

The measure announced by the FTC has received support from entities that advocate for the right to independent repair of devices. The well-known iFixIt channel — whose job of opening and detailing newly released devices have you seen it here on Olhar Digital — issued a statement, praising the commission: "The FTC's progress in tackling repair restrictions shows how 'packaged' the right to independent repair is, and how powerful our community can be if we work together."

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