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BALTIMORE -- President Joe Biden signed a wide-ranging executive order Friday to “promote competition in the American economy.” The 72 different initiatives included an order calling on the “FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to issue rules against anti-competitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.” A fact sheet from the White House singles out cell phones and tractors as specific products subject to the order.
The federal action builds on Right to Repair reforms introduced in states across the country, including in Maryland, in recent years. These proposals would require manufacturers to provide fair access to what we need to fix modern products — spare parts, service manuals and diagnostic software tools.
Right to Repairs efforts have gained significant momentum in recent years but also face significant opposition. A Maryland bill to address access to repair for farm equipment and electronics was voted down in February, despite being backed by Attorney General Brian Frosh, consumer groups, environmentalists, farmers and the Maryland Farm Bureau, cybersecurity experts, and independent repair technicians. A PIRG study found that companies that contribute to lobbying efforts against Right to Repair are cumulatively worth about $10.7 trillion.
Statements from supporters:
“Maryland PIRG has been working on Right to Repair because we believe Marylanders should be able to fix their stuff -- and, apparently, so does the president of the United States,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “Reducing restrictions on repair will save consumers money, reduce electronic waste, help close the digital divide, and protect Maryland farmers and our food supply. This national progress should send a clear signal to Maryland legislators that it’s time to step up and put Right to Repair rules in place.”
“This is an important step forward,” explained Maryland State Delegate Jessica Feldmark, who has introduced legislation on Right to Repair. “It’s great news for consumers, for farmers, for the environment, and for the economy. Having spent the last two years working on Right to Repair at the state level, it is so encouraging to see President Biden's leadership on this issue.”
“Until recently, American farmers fixed their own equipment when it broke, or they took it to their repair shop of choice. But over the last few decades, manufacturers have made it harder and harder to do this, all but forcing farmers to take their broken machinery to a licensed dealership for repairs – which can be inconvenient, restrictive, and expensive,” said Rob Larew, President, National Farmers Union. “We greatly appreciate that the Biden administration has taken note of this problem and is taking steps to give farmers the freedom to repair their equipment how and where they please.”
Maryland PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) is a state based, non-partisan, small donor funded public interest advocacy organization with grassroots members across the state and a student funded, student directed chapter at the University of Maryland College Park. For forty five years we’ve stood up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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