FTC Wants to Add Right to Repair to Existing Energy Saving Rules

The federal government wants to expand its energy conservation rules to include right-to-repair provisions.
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State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it’s thinking about updating its energy labeling rules to require manufacturers to provide people with repair instructions. According to the press release on the FTC website, the commission wants to revise its energy-saving Energy Guide Rules, and is looking for public comment.

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“We look forward to hearing from the public on our initiative to reduce energy costs, promote competition, and strengthen repairability,” Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in the press release. “As prices rise, the Commission will continue to take aggressive action to protect consumers’ pocketbooks and strengthen their right to repair their own products.”

You’ve probably seen the yellow label on some appliances like your water heater or the back of your refrigerator. The FTC run program tells consumers how much energy the product uses in a year and what that might cost you. The proposed expansion would also make manufacturers share repair instructions with its customers.

“Repairing a product instead of replacing it is one of the best ways to cut down the environmental impact of our appliances. Including repair requirements as part of the Energy Guide program is the right thing for the planet and important for consumers,” Nathan Proctor, PIRG’s Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director, said in a press release after the announcement. 

“When Congress passed energy conservation policies decades ago, it included the ability to require Right to Repair access. While that provision has gone unnoticed for too long, it’s not surprising it was written that way—strong Right to Repair protections are in several long-standing laws,” Proctor said. “Similar protections were put into the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the Clean Air Act and more. The reason is simple: Our system has long honored users' Right to Repair and viewed manufacturers restricting repair as a predatory act that shouldn’t happen. I’m thrilled that the FTC is stepping up to enforce those laws and protect repair, and I hope other agencies join them in standing up for repair.”

According to the FTC, it wants comments that specifically “address whether lack of access to repair instructions for covered products is an existing problem for consumers; whether providing such information would assist consumers in their purchasing decisions or product use; whether providing such information would be unduly burdensome to manufacturers; and any other relevant issues.”

Anyone who wants to tell the FTC how they feel about this can send a written letter directly to the FTC or submit a comment online. People who want to comment online can go to https://www.regulations.gov.

The FTC formally adopted the right-to-repair as a policy goal in 2021. It’s following president Joe Biden’s lead, who enshrined the right in an executive order on July 9, 2021. After decades of paying for expensive repairs from the original manufacturer, people are finally seeing the end of the repair monopolies from companies like Apple. Right-to-repair legislation is working its way through the Senate and several state houses. People want to be able to repair their own stuff, and it looks like the FTC’s proposed regulation changes may be another step in the right direction.