Right To Repair

President Joe Biden’s worthy addition to JFK’s consumer rights: a right to repair our stuff

President Biden speaks to the White House Competition Council on February 1, 2023. At left is CFPB director and former FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra.
White House, U.S.Government Work. | Public Domain
President Joe Biden attends a meeting with his Competition Council to receive updates on increasing competition in the U.S. economy, Wednesday, February 1, 2023, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Sixty-one years ago today, President John F. Kennedy issued his “Special Message to the Congress on Protecting the Consumer Interest.” The radio address described 4 essential consumer rights. Those were the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose and the right to be heard.

Today, we propose that President Joe Biden’s call for a “right to repair” our own stuff should be added to these consumer rights.  Guaranteeing a right to repair is a key plank in the president’s broader platform to “promote competition in the American economy.”

As co-author Proctor says, “We should be able to fix our stuff when it breaks.”

“That means working together to get the companies who make our stuff, to give us the right to repair our stuff. We need easy access to the information, tools, resources and third party repair shops it takes to fix our cell phones, appliances, electronics and other equipment. When they do, it will be better for the planet, better for our budgets, and things will work the way they are supposed to.”

President Joe Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order in July 2021 to “promote competition in the American economy.” It included several provisions specific to repair rights. It included many others to guarantee that consumers and small businesses have choices in the marketplace.

The President called for dramatic actions to prevent big companies from monopolizing markets, raising prices and shutting out competitors. More competition means products that are lower-priced and better-made. It means more innovative companies are fighting for your business.

Even before the order, the Federal Trade Commission had already taken action against companies that claimed fixing your stuff at an independent repairer would void your warranty. The FTC has made it clear that companies can’t do that. The FTC made it clear that it does not void your warranty to go to a third-party repair shop.

On the Kennedy event’s 50th anniversary eleven years ago, co-author Mierzwinski wrote that “Other presidents and consumer organizations have added to his work — proposing rights to consumer education and consumer redress, for example…”

Today, we submit that President Joe Biden’s call for a “right to repair” is also a worthy addition to the basic consumer rights championed by President Kennedy.

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