FTC to Hold July 2019 Workshop on Product Repair Restrictions, Seeks Research in Advance

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For Release

Staff of the Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on July 16, 2019 to examine ways in which manufacturers may limit third-party repairs and is seeking research focused on such limitations.

Nixing the Fix: A Workshop on Repair Restrictions will focus on how manufacturers may limit repairs by consumers and repair shops and whether those limitations affect consumer protection, including consumers’ rights under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. The statute, which the FTC enforces, is aimed at helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions and having access to remedies if a product does not perform as specified. The Act, among other things, prohibits manufacturers from conditioning warranty coverage on the use of particular products or services.

The workshop will discuss some of the issues that arise when a manufacturer restricts or makes it impossible for a consumer or an independent repair shop to make product repairs and whether such restrictions undercut the Warranty Act’s protections.    

Among the issues the workshop will examine include:

  • The interplay between repair restrictions and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s anti-tying provision, which bars manufacturers from conditioning warranty coverage on the consumer’s use of  any article or service that is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name;
  • Whether repair restrictions affect the market for extended warranties and service agreements offered by manufacturers and retailers;
  • The types of repair restrictions employed by manufacturers and the extent to which these restrictions are used;
  • The repair market in the United States, and the impact that manufacturers’ repair restrictions have on small and local businesses;
  • Whether manufacturers use software updates that may make products obsolete or unfixable if they have been previously repaired by consumers or repair shops;
  • Whether repair restrictions are needed to reduce the risk of physical injury to consumers and independent repair shop workers, to protect manufacturers from liability for products improperly repaired by independent repair shops or individuals, or for any other reason; and
  • Whether consumers understand the existence and the effects of repair restrictions.

In preparation of the workshop, FTC staff is calling for empirical research and data concerning the prevalence and impact of manufacturers’ repair restrictions. These limitations may include code that disables products that have been repaired by someone other than the manufacturer; product designs that inhibit repairs (such as attaching batteries with glue that only the manufacturer can remove); contractual post-sale or licensing restrictions; or proprietary diagnostic software and replacement parts. Research and data must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on April 30, 2019.

FTC staff also invites comments from the public on issues related to manufacturers’ repair restrictions. Comments may be filed until September 16, 2019, electronically or in written form. If you prefer to file your comment on paper, write “Nixing the Fix” on your comment and on the envelope and mail your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite CC-5610 (Annex B), Washington, DC 20580, or deliver your comment to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street, SW, 5th Floor, Suite 5610 (Annex B), Washington, DC 20024.

The public may also submit suggestions on potential workshop participants to nixingthefix@ftc.gov.

The workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, D.C., and will be webcast live on the FTC’s website. The agenda, directions to the Constitution Center building, and a list of speakers will be available in the future on the event webpage.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Juliana Gruenwald Henderson
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2924

STAFF CONTACTS:
Dan Salsburg
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3402

Christine M. Todaro
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3711