Culture Magazine

A Recent Victory for Right-to-repair

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

Cory Doctorow, A Win For Harley Riders, Medium, June 26, 2022.

He opens:

Right-to-Repair is a no-brainer. You bought a thing, you want to fix it — or nominate someone else to fix it for you — and the manufacturer doesn’t. How ever can we resolve this intractable difference of opinion?

And then goes on to detail various cases where manufacturers are trying to block owners from getting their stuff repaired by anyone other than the manufacturer. He then tells us about:

In 1975, Congress passed the Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act; a complex law whose subtext can be summed up in seven words: fuck you, I bought it, it’s mine.

Specifically, Magnuson-Moss “prohibits a company from conditioning a consumer product warranty on the consumer’s using any article or service which is identified by brand name unless it is provided for free.” In other words, unless a company wants to provide free service to its customers, it can’t tell them to use its own repair facility or its affiliates’.

And concludes with a recent ruling by the FTC:

FTC chair Lina Khan is part of a trio of Biden appointees (along with Jonathan Kanter at the DoJ and Tim Wu in the White House) who are laser-focused on promoting the interest of people over corporations.

Khan’s FTC just voted 5–0 to open enforcement action against Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse, and they immediately caved, removing the illegal warranty language that threatened to take away your right to service if you dared to fix something on your own, or at a garage or depot of your choice.

The FTC has been doing amazing stuff on Right to Repair, starting with the landmark Nixing the Fix report, which documented the many ways in which companies were ripping off their customers and destroying the planet by blocking repairs. Then there was Biden’s amazing Executive Order on repair, and endorsing federal Right to Repair legislation.

But the vanquishing of Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse shows that we don’t need an EO or a bill to do a lot about repair: all we need is an FTC that’s willing to do it’s job.

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