FTC Ponders New Rules for Appliance Repair

Updated Energy Labels could mean more opportunity for independent servicers

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking public comment on an initiative that would give independent servicers and consumers greater access to product repair information.

Under the proposal, manufacturers of appliances, electronics and other consumer products would be compelled to provide owners with repair instructions as part of the FTC’s Energy Labeling program, which helps shoppers compare energy usage and costs of competing models. The agency has the authority to require manufacturers to provide consumers with instructions for the maintenance, use or repair of covered products.

In a May 2021 report to Congress titled “Nixing the Fix,” the Commission found “scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justification for repair restrictions,” which result in limited access to repair information, consumer reliance on manufacturers’ repair networks or consumer replacement of products before the end of their useful lives. The agency argues that access to this information could help ensure that independent servicers have a chance to compete, thereby providing consumers with potentially lower-cost repair options.

See: Asurion’s Pain is Dealers’ Gain

The initiative could also help protect the environment by allowing consumers to repair rather than replace defective appliances, the FTC wrote.

Although the labeling proposal addresses repair instructions, the FTC’s congressional report goes further, taking some manufacturers to task for using highly specialized nuts and bolts and/or limiting access to parts, tools and diagnostic software — a seemingly common practice that limits consumers’ ability to repair products they own, the Commission said.

“As the FTC’s work has documented, companies routinely use a wide array of practices to restrict Americans from repairing their own products,” wrote FTC chair Lina M. Khan. “These restrictions can raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency.

“I believe it is vital that the Commission use every tool available to it to vindicate Americans’ right to repair their own products,” she added.

Related: Weber Allows Third-Party Parts Under FTC Edict

In amending its Energy Labeling requirements, the agency is also considering adding new product categories to programs that weren’t specifically addressed before, including clothes dryers, cooktops, wine coolers, ice makers, humidifiers and air purifiers.

In addition, the FTC is asking whether the rule requiring manufacturers to affix Energy Labels to every SKU should be limited to floor models only, and appear instead on or in all product packaging.

According to the Commission, interested parties may file a comment online at https://www.regulations.gov/by following the instructions on the web-based form and writing “Energy Labeling Rule (16 CFR Part 305) (Matter No. R611004)” on the comment.  Written comments should be mailed to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex J), 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580.

For further information, contact Hampton Newsome, Attorney, Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, at (202) 326-2889, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

Upcoming Events