An expansive White House order issued under the banner of “promoting competition in the American economy” presents 72 initiatives for more than a dozen federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, which is encouraged to limit “equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops.” The order instructs the FTC chairman to consider working with colleagues to exercise statutory rulemaking authority to address “unfair anti-competitive restrictions on third-party repair or self-repair of items, such as the restrictions imposed by [equipment] manufacturers.”
“The right to repair directive is a solution in search of a problem. Currently, consumers of heavy equipment can diagnose and repair their machinery,” says Associated Equipment Distributors President Brian McGuire. “They don’t have the ability to alter the safety, security and environmental protections on the equipment. AED strongly urges the FTC to consider the significant differences between repairing heavy machinery and modifying or tampering with it, as the agency ponders future action.”
Unlike many other federal agencies, he adds, the FTC is independent, not under direct White House control. Therefore, the ability of the chief executive to compel FTC action is significantly limited. However, a recently released FTC report on repair restrictions shows a predisposition by the agency to act.
Despite the White House order, AED notes, it’s unclear what steps the FTC will take or even which actions the agency has the statutory authority to commence without congressional authorization. Working together with the broader equipment industry and other trade associations, AED will engage the FTC and the White House to educate authorities about the risks to equipment safety, durability, and environmental compliance posed by the order, and oppose granting unfettered access to allow modification of embedded software and source code.
INJURED WHISTLEBLOWER FLAGS TRUCK SAFETY
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has approved the settlement of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration whistleblower investigation revealing how Advance Disposal Services Waste Midwest LLC retaliated against a driver who reported a workplace injury and raised concerns that an unrepaired truck was unsafe to operate. The court ordered the Northbrook, Ill. hauler, recently acquired by Waste Management, to pay the whistleblower $95,000 in lost wages, minus applicable payroll taxes.
OSHA investigators found that after the driver—unnamed in public documents due to whistleblower case protocol—cited safety matters, an ADS manager assigned the vehicle to another driver. The manager then assigned the whistleblower to a vehicle with which he or she was unfamiliar; while operating the truck, the driver injured a finger and needed light duty to recover. The company faulted the whistleblower for the injury, and later fired he or she over suspicions of reporting unsafe working conditions to an ADS hotline. OSHA determined the dismissal was in retaliation for Occupational Safety and Health Act-protected activities. The agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces 20-plus statutes shielding employees from retaliation for reporting workplace safety and health law violations.