RV owners soon may have an easier time when it comes to getting repairs or RVs fixed. The Federal Trade Commission issued a statement supporting the right to repair, highlighting its push to crack down on enforcement for small businesses, workers, and consumers who have trouble getting their possessions fixed.
“The FTC has a range of tools it can use to root out unlawful repair restrictions, and (the) policy statement would commit us to move forward on this issue with new vigor,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan.
The RV Industry Association, RVIA, says the FTC’s focus is on other businesses such as cell phone companies.
“While the [FTC’s] position is broad, the intent focused on allowing customers to more easily be able to repair their own electronics, such as cell phones,” said Monika Geraci of the RVIA.
RVIA Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers added, “What we have found and seen traditionally over the years is the RV industry is rarely, if ever, the actual target of legislation or regulatory issues. We have to react because once the process starts, we might get swept up in that.”
“That is where we have to go to work,” Landers continued. “We either can work on getting a carve-out or exception for the industry, or all our companies will need to take heed and understand the nuance of the legislation or regulation they might need to follow.”
The FTC said all types of businesses could be affected, including RV dealers and manufacturers.
“Any company engaged in unlawful repair restrictions could face a potential enforcement action from the FTC, including RV manufacturers,” according to the FTC.
“Companies routinely use a whole set of practices, including limiting the availability of parts and tools, using exclusionary designs and product decisions that make independent repairs less safe, and making assertions of patent and trademark rights that are unlawfully over-broad,” Khan said. “These types of restrictions can significantly raise costs for consumers, stifle innovation, close off business opportunity for independent repair shops, create unnecessary electronic waste, delay timely repairs, and undermine resiliency.”
So, the FTC will step up enforcement as it relates to customers’ right to repair, targeting repair restrictions that violate antitrust laws or prohibitions on unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
Gigi Stetler heads up the RV Advisor Consumer Association, which is a non-profit organization designed to protect RV consumers’ rights and to help leve thel playing field between RV dealers, manufacturers and the consumer. She also started RV Advisor.
“The RV Advisor was formed by me to hold dealers and manufacturers accountable, to make sure the consumer has the best possible experience,” Stetler said. “I do applaud the FTC’s statement as to potentially seeking fines or other repercussions to those who don’t allow consumers their right to repair.”
To help consumers, the RVIA has worked over the years to increase the amount of people able to fix RVs, Geraci said. “In the case of repair, the industry made the $10-million investment in the RV Technical Institute [in 2019] to increase the number of trained and certified RV technicians able to service the growing number of RV customers,” she said.
The FTC says it wants to hear from consumers who are struggling with dealers and manufacturers to get problems with RVs and other products fixed. To file a complaint, call 1-877-FTC-HELP or access the website at reportfraud.ftc.gov.