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Biden Gives Boost To Independent Device Repairs With Executive Order

The move was blasted by an industry trade group but welcomed by the proponents of the ‘right to repair’ movement.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Friday that is seen as a win for proponents of independent device repairs.

An industry trade group, however, has attacked the move, arguing in part that authorized services providers should be the ones to handle device repairs.

[Related: 10 Big Things To Know About The Apple iPhone 12]

In a fact sheet on the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, the White House said that the order seeks to “make it easier and cheaper to repair items you own by limiting manufacturers from barring self-repairs or third-party repairs of their products.”

The order “encourages” the Federal Trade Commission to “issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment,” according to the White House.

Among those targeted by the order include “cell phone manufacturers and others blocking out independent repair shops.”

“Tech and other companies impose restrictions on self and third-party repairs, making repairs more costly and time-consuming, such as by restricting the distribution of parts, diagnostics, and repair tools,” the White House fact sheet says.

Device makers such as Apple are well known for restricting independent repairs, though the company did ease its stance in 2019 by allowing qualified independent repair businesses to get access to out-of-warranty iPhone parts. Apple reports that more than 1,500 repair service locations have qualified to be a part of its Independent Repair Provider program since the launch of the program in 2019. The company also reports having more than 5,000 authorized service providers.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday about the executive order.

An industry trade group, TechNet, released a statement Friday that blasts the Biden executive order on a number of fronts—arguing that the order will “delay how consumers receive goods needed for their health, safety, and well-being; limit access to critical information; and deny conveniences.”

The group—whose members include numerous tech companies, including Apple, Google, Dell and HP Inc.—also suggested that authorized services providers are simply more qualified to make device repairs than independent providers.

“Authorized repair providers, including many local small, family-owned businesses across the country, have established relationships with manufacturers,” the TechNet statement says. “This ensures these businesses receive the appropriate training directly from manufacturers and have the qualifications to properly and safely repair devices.”

TechNet also urged that “cybersecurity requirements protecting sensitive consumer information should be built into the ground floor of any new regulations governing this marketplace.”

The White House fact sheet characterizes independent repairs as a crucial part of the Biden Administration’s larger goal of boosting competition.

The executive order is meant “to promote competition in the American economy, which will lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth,” the fact sheet says.

Advocates of “right to repair,” such as the repair guides site iFixit, cheered the executive order as “a huge step by the Biden administration to protect local businesses and consumers that are being trampled.”

In an email to CRN, one executive at a mobility solution provider said Friday that while they wish the White House did not have to get involved, customers do deserve more of a choice in how to get devices repaired.

“A consumer, or business for that matter, that owns a device should be able to leverage whoever they want to repair it,” the executive said. “Small businesses are the life blood of our economic recovery and too often, a broken screen results in increased costs to replace the device through a carrier.”

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