This 'Right to repair' order could make fixing your smartphone easier and cheaper

Consumers and small businesses get a boost from President Biden's executive order to boost competition.

US president Joe Biden's executive order aimed at promoting competition in the US also looks like a big step forward for the 'right to repair' movement.

Biden signed the order on Friday as part of a plan to boost competition across numerous sectors, from healthcare to the auto industry, online platforms and consumer devices. But the order also aims for better regulatory support for independent tech repair shops.

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Dozens of states have proposed right to repair bills for things like consumer devices, cars, farm equipment and medical equipment. EU lawmakers proposed a right to repair law for cell phones and other devices last year

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The new order mentions "cell phone manufacturers and others blocking out independent repair shops," and notes that "tech and other companies impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools."

The executive order encourages the FTC "to issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment."

This may tip the balance in favor of consumers and small repair shops and against big tech hardware makers that have designed products that are unfriendly to independent repair shops. 

Kyle Wiens, CEO of teardown and repair specialist iFixit, welcomed Biden's order and is confident the FTC has the power to even the playing field. 

"Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy, but Big Tech has done everything they can to drive small repair businesses out of the market," said Wiens. "This is a huge step by the Biden administration to protect local businesses and consumers that are being trampled."  

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iFixit highlights the difficulties independent repairers face from large tech firms, ranging from restricted or blocked access to parts and tools, as well as requiring proprietary software to complete fixes. It says this raises the cost of repairs. 

"The FTC's broad rulemaking authority could require manufacturers to sell parts to independent repair shops, provide the software needed to diagnose and fix device firmware, or more," iFixit's Kevin Purdy noted. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has also backed the right to repair push by the Biden Administration