‘Right to repair’ directives included in executive order

President Joe Biden signed his “Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy July 9. The order aims to promote competition in the American economy and encourage economic growth. One of the order’s directives is aimed at consumers’ rights to repair their own equipment. 

The order encourages the Federal Trade Commission to exercise its regulatory authority regarding “unfair anticompetitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by powerful manufacturers that prevent farmers from repairing their own equipment.”

A White House fact sheet explains, “Corporate consolidation even affects farmers’ ability to repair their own equipment or to use independent repair shops. Powerful equipment manufacturers—such as tractor manufacturers—use proprietary repair tools, software, and diagnostics to prevent third parties from performing repairs. For example, when certain tractors detect a failure, they cease to operate until a dealer unlocks them. That forces farmers to pay dealer rates for repairs that they could have made themselves or that an independent repair shop could have done more cheaply.”

Any new FTC right-to-repair regulations could also affect cell phone and automotive corporations as well as other non-agricultural manufacturers that limit a consumer’s ability to repair their own products or take them to an independent repair shop.

“Manufacturers explain that these repair restrictions often arise from their desire to protect intellectual property rights and prevent injuries and other negative consequences resulting from improper repairs,” as noted in the FTC report “Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said of the executive order, “Farmers increasingly rely on the latest technology as they grow healthy, affordable food. Business purchases—from robotic milkers to high-tech combines—require a substantial investment, and when those tools break down farmers need to get back up and running quickly. Limiting who can work on a piece of machinery drives up costs and increases downtime. Ensuring farmers have the ability to perform cost-effective repairs on their own equipment will keep America’s farms running and financially sustainable.”

Shauna Rumbaugh can be reached at 620-227-1805 or [email protected].