On July 16, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted “Nixing the Fix: Workshop on Repair Restrictions” in Washington, D.C. Seeking new venues to shed light on the challenges faced by repair stations when trying to obtain maintenance manuals – and the FAA’s unwillingness to enforce the relevant regulations – ARSA coordinated industry attendance at the event.
The workshop’s purpose was to examine ways manufacturers seek to limit third-party repairs in various industries. The panels focused on how license agreements have eroded the consumer’s right of ownership and whether consumers have the right to repair their products outside of the manufacturer’s chain of control. The event demonstrated how other industries are facing parallel issues to aviation. While the workshop’s potential impact on the aviation industry’s cause is unclear, maintenance providers can reflect on these issues to examine their own challenges.
Panelist avidly debated apparent obstacles manufacturers engineer into their products. Through software, user agreements and/or hardware limitations, companies can construct barriers to third-party repair and limit consumer choice for who performs repair.
Arguments for and against third-party repair posed striking similarities to aviation maintenance issues. Panelists noted the impossibility of manufactures to meet repair demand for all technical devices in the market and addressed how third-party repair was essential to provide consumers a cost effective alternative.
The range of suggested solutions included requiring availability of OEM parts, technical data and software updates to the warranty protection when a non-manufacturer repair is used. Repair professionals argued that restricted access to product specifications and voided warranties creating monopolies on maintenance capabilities. Manufactures could then hold a consumer’s product “hostage” until they paid for the manufacture’s costly repair service or licensing fee for software updates or simply discarded the product and purchased a new one.
The aviation maintenance industry has already “solved” this issue by regulating manufactures to make maintenance manuals available, but consistent enforcement by the FAA is essential. Without it, the rule carries no weight. ARSA has used many avenues to urge the FAA to consistently enforce regulation and limit the burden imposed on repair stations.
The FTC’s inquiry into repair restrictions is another path the industry can take to push consistent enforcement.
You can view a recording of the workshop by clicking here.
The FTC will continue to accept comments on this matter until Sept. 16 through its comments page, click here to participate.
To review ARSA’s comments submitted to the FTC, click here.