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FTC report finds scant evidence to support manufacturer justification for repair restrictions

May 12, 2021
Parts And Service
By Robert J. Kerwin

On May 6, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission, a federal agency with a mission to protect consumers and promote competition, issued its long-awaited report, Nixing the Fix: An FTC Report to Congress on Repair Restrictions. The report follows a docket the FTC opened in 2019 seeking comments on the subject, as well as a public workshop entitled “Nixing the Fix” later that year, featuring supporters and opponents of repair restrictions across multiple industries. Although the report focused on consumer protection and antitrust issues, medical device repair issues were also discussed.

Notwithstanding manufacturer explanations for repair restrictions, the FTC report observed that proponents of repair restrictions did not provide sufficient data to support their argument that safety issues could occur because of repairs by consumers or independent repair shops.

40-year history of repair restrictions and new methods of restricting repairs
The FTC report acknowledged concerns with repair restrictions dating back 40 years. Issues like voiding a consumer warranty (when a consumer uses a servicer other than the manufacturer to repair the equipment) have been prohibited. The FTC also identified new issues which may be violative of the law. Practices such as (i) inhibiting independent repair by development of product designs that prevent repair, (ii) undertaking to make parts unavailable and (iii) imposing software locks were viewed as new forms of restrictions that must be examined to determine if they are unlawful.

FTC report discusses approaches to repair restrictions
The 54-page FTC report traces right to repair issues in nine separate sections. The first and second sections review the FTC’s prior record of enforcement and analyze the competition issues related to repair markets. These sections give an overview of past priorities. Sections three and four analyze the information collected from the public FTC docket and workshop, and catalog the types of repair restrictions being implemented across industries. Section five is the most revealing of the FTC assessments as it summarizes the manufacturer justifications for imposing repair restrictions. The positions of "advocates for change" [of the repair restrictions] are highlighted in section six. In section seven, the FTC describes the approaches which could support consumer choice in light of the situation. Section eight explores in further detail the ways in which these repair restriction challenges could be addressed. [Note: if you find wading through the full report a bit daunting, begin with the 3-page Executive Summary and then move to the areas which most interest you.]

Don Bogutski

FTC Report

May 13, 2021 05:07

An important report on a significant subject of interest to all independent vendors and servicers of medical technology.

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Steve Arey

FTC Report "Nixing the Fix"

May 14, 2021 10:38

Having worked in the Medical Device repair industry for 35 years, 23 in the Federal Government, I believe "Best Practices" for consumer protection would be the FTC "require" manufacturers of all medical devices provide "proof" their devices are "safe" to use as least annually. Some devices, depending on use, may need to be more stringent.

Steven Arey
Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician -1986
Certified Radiological Equipment Specialist -1990

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Steven Ford

Link to the actual report

May 31, 2021 01:42

The report in full can be found here


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