FTC Throttles Back Warranty Abuses: Repair Roundup Week of June 20

FTC Throttles Back Warranty Abuses: Repair Roundup Week of June 20

The Federal Trade Commission orders Harley-Davidson to fix warranties that limit repair options.

Each week, we bring you the top repair news from around the world, curated for iFixit by the folks over at the Fight to Repair blog.

The Big News:

The Federal Trade Commission has been saying for the better part of a year that it was serious about cracking down on repair restrictions. On Thursday, it finally made good on its promise: ordering motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson and manufacturing giant Westinghouse to fix warranties with illegal restrictions on customers’ use of independent dealers or parts.

A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle strapped onto a motorcycle lift in a garage.

“Consumers deserve choices when it comes to repairing their products, and independent dealers deserve a chance to compete,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a statement. “These orders require Harley and Westinghouse to fix their warranties, come clean with consumers, and ensure fair competition with independent providers. Other companies that squelch consumers’ right to repair should take notice.”

The companies were cited for imposing illegal warranty terms, for example: voiding customers’ warranties if they used anyone other than the companies and their authorized dealers to get parts or repairs for their products. The FTC also alleged that Harley-Davidson failed to fully disclose all of the terms of its warranty in a single document, requiring consumers to contact an authorized dealership for full details.

The FTC ruling will prohibit either company from further violations (like telling their customers that their warranties will be void if they use third-party services or parts vs. authorized service providers and OEM parts). The Commission is also seeking up to $46,517 in damages per violation in federal court.

A man in gray coveralls leans over a motorcycle, draining brake fluid into a glass bottle
DIY repair does not void your warranty, and Harley must explicitly state as much.

Under the FTC order, Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse will have to add language to their warranties that explicitly recognizes consumers’ right to repair. For example: “taking your product to be serviced by a repair shop that is not affiliated with or an authorized dealer of [Company] will not void this warranty. Also, using third-party parts will not void this warranty.”

The companies will also have to send communications to customers notifying them of the erroneous restrictions it had placed on third-party repair and instruct authorized dealers to remove any offending signs or language from their materials, as well.

“In July 2021, the Commission unanimously adopted a policy statement that committed the agency to prioritizing enforcement actions tackling unlawful repair restrictions,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in a statement (PDF). “Today’s enforcement actions—the first addressing unlawful repair restrictions since we adopted the policy statement—mark an important step forward, demonstrating our commitment to vigorously protecting Americans’ right to repair. “

Other News:

This Vast Farm Salvage Yard Saves Farmers with Hard-to-Find Parts

Drive north out of the small central Pennsylvania town of Muncy, alongside the West Branch Susquehanna River, up into the crinkled hills, and you’ll find it: the farm that grows machines. They sprout slowly as you approach: a landscape dotted with balers, manure spreaders, feed grinders, and more lining the old country road. Those errant shoots soon give way to clusters; round the final curve and those clusters explode into fields and fields of old agricultural equipment stretching on almost endlessly, covering the hills in twisted rows, undulating with the terrain and stretching out of sight. 

Fry’s Machinery Inc. doesn’t really grow tools, but it does cultivate something just as valuable as any staple crop: a farmer’s ability to repair their own machines. As the largest farm equipment salvage yard in Pennsylvania (and quite possibly the entire eastern U.S.), Fry’s is a lifeline for smaller farmers in the region seeking hard-to-find parts for a litany of machines as the tools of their trade grow more expensive, more computerized, and ever more difficult to fix. 

A salvage yard among green hills full of slightly rusty farm equipment
Photo credit Joe Ligo

Plows, combines, planters, balers, spreaders, choppers, mowers, tractors, and more—that a place like this, so vast and sprawling and organic-feeling, still exists in 2022 feels at least a little bit miraculous. Of course, Fry’s Machinery is no miracle. Instead, it’s the result of one man’s hard work and one family’s dedication amid the larger forces that have reshaped agriculture in America over the last half century. (The Drive)

The Paradox of Less Is More: Trends in Affordability and Sustainability

We are primed to reflect on fragile supply chains. Businesses can analyze them for circularity and find places to replace the traditional “take, make, dispose” business model with one instead focused on reusing and recycling materials.

This means exploring new practices such as dynamic pricing, micro-factories, and hyper-localized manufacturing. You can also find opportunities to share existing resources versus creating from scratch. As an example, upcycling companies are doing everything from turning leftover bread into beer to making functional furniture from used coffee grounds.

As we start to embrace scarcity in business, we don’t necessarily have to look at it from a loss-making perspective. Boardrooms of the world must come to accept that innovation does not have to mean new and selling less does not have to mean revenue loss—rather, it can be an opportunity to embrace new business models. (Forbes)

Circular Economy or Degrowth?

The circular economy is championed by people like Ellen MacArthur (remember her from sailing around the world?) and is defined by making everything sustainable and reusable. We have an economy that she defines as take-make-waste; we need to move to an economy that is take-make-reuse or, to be more exact, take, make, use, reuse, redistribute, repair, reproduce.

The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution. A circular economy decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. It is a resilient system that is good for business, people, and the environment.

Degrowth,” on the other hand, is a planned reduction of energy and resource use designed to bring the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being. Sounds good, but far more radical, as it argues we should stop making money out of the planet. Degrowth believes we should prioritize social and ecological wellbeing over corporate profit. That’s difficult for, well, people driven by profit. (thefinanser.com)

Congress Demands Auto Industry Right to Repair Investigation

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Indiana has sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) demanding it examine Washington’s role in regulating the automotive industry and consumers’ right to repair products they own.

Schakowsky is the Chairwoman of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, which oversees the regulation of interstate commerce, commercial regulation, and consumer interests. “Consumers rely on a range of goods every day—vehicles, computers, mobile phones, appliances, and more—to conduct their work, bring their children to school, and complete countless other tasks,” she wrote in the letter, published on Wednesday. “When these goods break, consumers sometimes face limited options on where and how to make repairs.”

Schakowsky asked the GAO to investigate three issues: how federal agencies can ensure a consumer’s right to repair their vehicles while still being cyber secure, how well the auto industry is self-regulating on the issue of right-to-repair, and how competitive the repair market is. (VICE.com)

Apple Repair Delays Allow Customers to Take Devices Back Home

Apple has been dealing with ongoing supply chain challenges that have impacted the iPhone and the Mac in the last several months. According to sources speaking to MacRumors, repair parts for the MacBook Pro, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro display, are currently taking up to two months to arrive in certain regions.

In response, Apple will now let customers take their devices back home in the event their repair will take longer than expected due to a missing part that’s backlogged. Once the part has arrived at the location, customers can return the device to complete the repair. (macrumors.com)

AIA Canada Right to Repair Petition Presented to House of Commons

A session in the Canadian government's House of Commons
Credit: Leafsfan67 CC BY-SA 4.0

The Automotive Industries Association of Canada reported that its official Right to Repair petition was presented to the House of Commons June 21, an important milestone in advancing the prospect of Right to Repair legislation. The petition, says the association, received some 1,786 signatures, easily surpassing the goal. As an official petition, the Government of Canada is required to respond within 45 calendar days.

Sponsored by Member of Parliament Brian Masse, the petition calls on the Federal Government to move quickly to pass legislation that acknowledges the right of consumers to own their data so they can continue to repair their vehicle at the auto repair shop of their choice. (jobbernation.ca)

Podcast: Defeating Medical Anti Right to Repair Legislation

Over at DotMed.com, Robert J. Kerwin, general counsel for the International Association of Medical Equipment Remarketers and Servicers (IAMERS), talks about recent efforts to redefine “remanufacturing” in a way that would have made third-party repair of medical devices much more difficult. Kerwin and host Philip Jacobus also discuss the ongoing legislative action around right to repair laws pertaining to medical equipment. 

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Protect Personal Information, Data Privacy

The U.S. House is considering the first bipartisan, and bicameral, bill to protect consumer data collection and privacy across nearly all sectors, including automakers and car dealers.

A discussion draft on the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA) was released earlier this month by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA). The House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee held a legislative hearing on the act last week. It would take effect 180 days after the date of enactment.

In a June 10 memorandum Pallone wrote, “After failed efforts over many decades, the ‘American Data Privacy and Protection Act’ (the Act) is the first bipartisan, bicameral national comprehensive privacy and data security proposal with support from leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.” (repairerdrivennews.com)

Planned Obsolescence: Hack Required for PS5 Controller to PS4 Compatibility

Hands holding a white DualSense PlayStation game console. controller

You can use a DualSense controller to play PS4 games on a PS5 console, but can you use a PS5 controller on a PS4 console? Well, the simple answer is no.

Sony made it clear in a PlayStation blog post that the DualSense controller will not work on PS4 consoles, as the two devices aren’t compatible when connected directly. The console manufacturer has not provided a reason why this is the case, but it’s a bit strange considering that the PS4 controller is forward compatible with the PS5 and backward compatible with the PS3.

However, there is a neat workaround you can use. Here’s what you need to know. If all you have is a PS4 console and DualSense controller (no PS4 controller to play with), you can indirectly connect these incompatible devices with the help of a middleman. (makeuseof.com)