What is the R2R movement?
The right to repair (R2R) is the idea that consumers who buy a product should be able to repair that product without limitations. It is a challenge to sellers who require use of authorized repair services or parts. Sellers and industry groups counter that repair restrictions are sometimes necessary to ensure safety and protect intellectual property. In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced renewed interest in repair restrictions in its “Nixing the Fix” report.
Why is R2R an antitrust issue?
R2R is both a consumer protection and antitrust issue. There are non-antitrust statutes—Magnuson-Moss and numerous state laws—touching on R2R. But R2R theories also borrow heavily from antitrust concepts, such as the idea that there are service and parts aftermarkets distinct from the foremarket for the sale of the original product.
How does Magnuson-Moss apply?
Until recently, R2R compliance was mostly just a matter of following the anti-tying provision of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. That provision makes it illegal to condition a warranty “on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name.” A company cannot void a warranty automatically simply because a consumer uses unauthorized parts or services.
There is an increasing risk of enforcers scrutinizing warranty provisions. The FTC in 2022 brought enforcement actions against Weber, Harley-Davidson, and MWE Investments for alleged Magnuson-Moss violations. The FTC resolved these cases through consent orders prohibiting any statement that a warranty will be voided by use of unauthorized parts or services.
What this means is that companies must look closely at any warranty restrictions. Magnuson-Moss does allow a seller to state that a warranty does not cover damage caused by unauthorized parts or services. If I ruin my phone by trying to fix it with a paper clip, the warranty need not cover that damage. My use of unauthorized parts would have caused the damage. In practice, however, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable warranty limitations.