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Agency pledges tough action to buttress ‘right to repair’

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal regulators are moving to give consumers freedom to repair their broken cellphones, computers, videogame consoles, and even tractors themselves, or to use independent repair shops.

Regulators say manufacturers' repair restrictions often fall most heavily on minority and low-income consumers.

Responding to a new competition directive from the Biden White House, the Federal Trade Commission is advancing toward writing new rules aimed at helping small repair businesses and saving consumers money on repair costs.

The FTC commissioners adopted a policy statement Wednesday supporting the “right to repair" that pledges beefed-up enforcement efforts against violations.

President Joe Biden signed the executive order on Friday, July 9.

For Colorado Gadget Fix technician Jason Caldwell, the executive order is welcome news.

When he spoke to KRDO, he explained how he's working on repairing someone's iPhone 10 screen. But no matter how good his repair quality is, the Face ID function is not going to work.

"I can take this real Apple piece and put it in another phone, and it won't work, which makes no sense," Caldwell says.

It's the same piece, going into the same product. But because Apple didn't perform the repair, he says that function is not going to work.

"You can't replace those parts because they are considered married to the motherboard," Caldwell says.

The same situation would apply to any iPhone requiring a touch ID. If you crack your phone screen, damaging the touch ID, and don't want to pay the upcharge to get it fixed, say goodbye to that function.

Caldwell could supply the same functioning parts, but they're not Apple parts. The major tech company says it's for security reasons, but Caldwell questions why he can't install a fully functioning Touch ID home button.

"On an iPhone 8, the home button is literally $1.67, but it won't read your fingerprint if you don't have the original."

Protecting your right to repair is what the FTC is working on, stopping major companies from preventing people to repair their own property through a third-party repair store.

So how will enforcement work? Caldwell is skeptical, but he does think this is a step in the right direction for the consumer, and for shops like his.

"I just really hope that this makes a serious change," he says. "Because there's a lot of customers that we have not been able to fix their phone because you can only do so much and then you lose photos, loved ones photos, and stuff like that."

Article Topic Follows: News

Associated Press

This article was provided by the Associated Press.

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Spencer Soicher

Spencer is the weekend evening anchor, and a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about him here.

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