Exterior of the FTC building in Washington, D.C.

Multiple groups are calling for the Federal Trade Commission to set a national right-to-repair standard. | Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

Advocates for electronics repair last month delivered a petition asking the Federal Trade Commission to craft rules to prohibit manufacturers from restricting repair of their products.

U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) and iFixit sent the 49-page petition to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Nov. 14, outlining their argument for greater federal protections covering device repair. The petition describes manufacturers requiring the use of special tools, withholding repair information from the public, implementing software locks and more.

“A rule protecting the right to repair might take a range of forms, from a prohibition of unfair and deceptive trade practices limiting repair activities, to a repairability labeling system that would enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions,” the petitioners wrote.

The FTC has taken several notable actions favorable to right-to-repair in the last few years. In May 2021, it signaled its support for the right-to-repair movement, with the commission’s four members unanimously approving a lengthy report describing restrictions to device repair.

That summer, the FTC announced it would increase enforcement of existing laws prohibiting manufacturers from blocking independent repair. The enforcement came shortly after the White House issued an executive order encouraging the FTC to support right-to-repair policies.

The November petition argues that an FTC rulemaking “is necessary to provide uniform repairability standards, and to bring competition law in line with modern market realities.”

The FTC has not yet issued notice of any proposed rulemaking covering repair.

Separately, a group of 59 state lawmakers from around the country wrote to the FTC at the end of November, asking the commission to manage a federal standard allowing for product repair scoring. The lawmakers said they’re looking at state-level reforms to provide consumers with repair scores, but that they want to avoid duplicating their efforts and want consistent repairability information across states. A federal standard would do just that, they wrote.

“Repair scores for tech such as laptops, phones and appliances could work like EnergyGuide labels for repairability,” they wrote. “They provide consumers with a 1 through 10 score that measures availability of spare parts, ease of disassembly and longevity of support before consumers purchase expensive devices.”

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