The need for federal right to repair protections in the auto industry was top of mind for key legislators and regulators at a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing held on May 18.
Chair Mike Quigley (D-IL) began by noting the importance of “initiatives that I have long supported like increasing consumer rights to repair the things that they own.”
Save Money on Auto Repair Transportation (SMART) Act co-sponsor Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) highlighted rising car repair costs for American families due to repair restrictions.
“I’d like to focus a minute on repair restrictions, specifically those restrictions that drive up the cost of auto repair…[w]ith record inflation, it is set to cost American families an extra $5,200 this year,” Joyce said. “Considering that a repair for a simple fender bender average nearly $4,000 today, a 26.4% increase in just five years, what more do you believe can be done with respect to automobile repair restrictions – whether on patent abuse or data controls – to bring down the cost of auto repairs for American consumers?”
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan responded that rooting out illegal repair restrictions “is a top priority for the commission,” especially as “the growing digitization just gives additional tools and levers for…auto manufacturers to be manipulating what types of repairs can and cannot occur.”
Echoing the FTC’s 2021 Nixing the Fix report, Chairwoman Khan also noted that modern repairs “often require specialized tools, difficult-to-obtain parts, and access to proprietary diagnostic software.” Repair restrictions limiting access to this information, she argued, “have made consumer products more difficult to fix and maintain.”
While the FTC has important authorities at its disposal to address anti-competitive behavior, stronger consumer protections are needed to uphold right to repair. The SMART Act and the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act are bipartisan bills currently sitting before Congress that are meant to combat automakers’ patent abuse and unfair data restrictions.