Biden’s right-to-repair order could stop companies from blocking DIY fixes


Michael Ghadieh, owner of FixMyPhoneSF, fixes an Apple Inc. iPhone in his shop in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Michael Ghadieh

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

After years of petitions and proposals, momentum is building in government to give consumers broader rights to repair products they own ranging from farm tractors to mobile phones.

In a press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will issue an executive order directing the US Department of Agriculture to issue rules that, among other things, “give farmers the right to repair their own equipment how they like.”

The order will reportedly cover more than tractors. According to a Bloomberg report, Biden will urge the Federal Trade Commission to press computer and electronics manufacturers and defense contractors to offer additional leeway in how their devices are repaired.

Tractors became a focus of the right-to-repair movement after John Deere added a clause to its end-user license agreement in 2016 that said only Deere-authorized technicians could make repairs that touched on software embedded in the tractor. Farmers were incensed. After paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for the equipment, they felt that they had a right to decide how to fix their machines. Farmers sometimes have to perform repairs in the field or call on independent techs to minimize downtime. Requiring a lengthy trip to the dealership or waiting for an authorized technician didn’t fit with many farmers’ operations.

Yet John Deere has maintained that tweaking the company’s software to execute a repair could result in a number of issues ranging from safety to emissions.

The right-to-repair issue has brought farmers in league with electronic and computer enthusiasts, who for years have groused at the thought that they merely licensed software, didn’t own it, and weren’t able to modify it to their liking.

The Biden order will have the most sway over agricultural machines, since the USDA falls squarely under the executive branch while the FTC is an independent agency. As such, Biden cannot direct the FTC to guarantee right-to-repair. Rather, the executive order is part of how the branches of government engage…

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