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Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions [pdf] (ftc.gov)
96 points by sinak 47 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments

It's a lot more important than many realize. Good products -- for example tractors and electric cars -- are being locked down and made less appealing to customers because of right to repair restrictions and exorbitant maintenance costs. It's one thing when you have to go to the manufacturer to repair your iphone, but when you need to do that to repair a tractor or a personal vehicle you have to use, then that can truly impoverish people. This is a very important battle in the fight to preserve the middle class.

It's important even when it's an iPhone or Android device. As the FTC report details, many households lack internet access outside of their mobile phones, so having to send off your only way to get online to the original manufacturer can mean days or weeks of not being able to access government services or apply for jobs or whatever.

And if you watch any of Rossmann's videos where he repairs Macbooks and such, they have _VASTLY_ inflated prices and often do a subpar job.

That monetary difference can be really hurtful.

Why the heck are people hurt by buying luxury brands like Apple? It's like saying poor people can't get the time because they don't have enough money to buy a Rolex...

Because the non-luxury brands quickly follow suit once Apple has demonstrated the extra profit outweighs the backlash.

The prices for repairs and replacement parts is inflated.

iPhone lasts mechanically and is supported much longer than Android. The original iPhone SE still receives updates after 5 years from the release.

I made a tiny donation to Rossmann's campaign. Time poor at the moment, I skipped straight to the conclusion which is very uplifting:

"To address unlawful repair restrictions, the FTC will pursue appropriate law enforcement and regulatory options, as well as consumer education, consistent with our statutory authority. The Commission also stands ready to work with legislators, either at the state or federal level, in order to ensure that consumers have choices when they need to repair products that they purchase and own."

Looking forward to reading the full report later.

...we conclude by explaining that, based on the record before us, it is clear that repair restrictions have diluted the effectiveness of Section 102(c) and steered consumers into manufacturers’ repair networks or to replace products before the end of their useful lives.

Based on a review of comments submitted and materials presented during the Workshop, there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions.18

These findings should also apply to phone manufacturers -- mandate providing a more realistic number of years of security updates. Closer to 7y but definitely more than 3y.

That would raise up the price of most cheap Android devices that don't come with update guarantees, not even for 3y.

maybe that's necessary? You wouldn't say someone should be able to buy an unsafe car because they are poor.

ultimately, it would probably force Google to just take it over (which to some extent they already have, but not completely).

The unsafe car makes the roads unsafe for everyone, not just the driver of the car.

Bad phones make for bad times for whoever uses the phone, not for anyone else. Also, people rarely get killed by bad consumer electronics.

Bad phones can lead tonmass surveillance by dictatorships and persecution of dissidents, ensuring that manufactures keep up with security for an extended period of time could help those populations a lot.

cars are not the best analogy as they rely on shared responsibility for safety. However, most home appliances are similar - say unsafe earthing on the dishwasher.

Safety is one of the easiest arguments to make - esp. exploiting the horrific - "think of the children". What if my kid's phone camera can be remotely turned on in their bedroom?

Unless you bought an estoteric device with a mechanical hardware off switch, all our cameras and microphones can and likely have been eavesdropped on.

I wouldn’t call electronic lab equipment (like oscilloscopes, bench power supplies, etc) “esoteric”, but it is true that less and less devices do. Power switches on desktop computers are soft switches; The power supply is always on. To fully turn it off, the power supply sometimes has a physical switch on it, but those are at the back of the case.

Pulling the plug on a desktop computer ain't hard. I actually dont have camera or microphone, either on the desktop pc (although headphones can work as a mic, even harddrives can).

All the laptops I have - do have removable batteries (unless you count 2032 cmos ones - that are harder to reach). I have opened all of them, upgraded, repaired (as in mosfets/capacitors), cleaned, etc.

One of the phones has a removable battery(!), still. Pretty much any other device/appliance has a plug or a mechanical switch (or both).

A device that cannot be safely used after 3y is not worth whatever price.

Obligatory link to Louis Rossmann’s recent Right to Repair fundraiser. Please consider donating if you’re interested in helping legislate for more open/repairable hardware.


Everytime I see that gofundme posted to the front page, it seemed to go down awfully fast.

It's probably better that people find their way to it through mentions on a connected story.

I'm pleased that it's gained traction today, and also a shout out to Linus for featuring it. As Rossmann later commented, it will likely have a real cost to him in terms of peeved off industry people. For people like myself though, he's truly earned my respect.


I believe all gofundme and similar links are given a rating penalty iirc

Doesn't this sort of report typically come just before somebody gets made an example of? I wonder who's first.

Whoever is at the bottom of iFixit's repairability scale?

We can only hope! From what I've read, I vote for John Deere.

My vote is for them too. It was the ultimate in hubris to take the humble tractor, worked on by farmers for decades, down this route.

I wonder when we will get the right to repair software.

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