An Update from the Anti-Monopoly Fund: The Monopolization of the Repair Market

04. 23. 2020

A quick note on our work to understand and counter monopolies and the concentration of economic and political power.

The fallout from the public health and economic crisis we are now in has only instilled a greater sense of urgency for our work. While there is still much we don’t know about what will happen in the coming weeks and months, we do know conditions are ripe for unprecedented consolidation across our economy, the decimation of small businesses and critical institutions, and a disintegration of the public’s trust in government to solve problems. Few experts now believe we’ll experience a V-shaped recovery, and even in that scenario, a return to the status quo would not address the underlying fragility of our systems. Monopolies are already moving to further entrench their economic and political power.

We’ve moved quickly to make sure the Anti-Monopoly Fund is responding to the moment. We’ll be sharing more details in the coming weeks, but wanted to highlight an early win and ongoing fight.

We invested in U.S. PIRG to expand their campaign against the monopolization of the repair market, which has real and immediate implications for the supply of ventilators. Because hospitals and healthcare providers do not have a right to repair ventilators themselves, they are locked in by manufacturers that control the entire repair process. These manufacturers restrict access to repair manuals, dictate repair costs, and require repairs to be done by their own technicians. U.S. PIRG succeeded in pressuring several companies to release critical information that will make it easier to repair broken units and deliver timely patient care. While this move is a major win for U.S. PIRG and other groups involved in the campaign, the fight is not over.

“It’s time we removed these repair restrictions for all the equipment in hospitals,” said U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair Campaign Director Nathan Proctor. “We hope that manufacturers continue to expand their cooperation with independent technicians and hospital in-house biomeds to provide what they need to fix equipment…We are all in this together.”

You can see more of U.S. PIRG’s ongoing COVID-19 projects here, including organizing 33 state attorneys general and over 300 state legislators to tackle price gouging, and securing the signatures of more than 100 mayors calling for the use of the Defense Production Act to ramp up medical supplies like PPE and ventilators.

We believe these are the kind of efforts that will be absolutely critical in the weeks and months ahead to curb concentrated economic power and build a more resilient economy. We’ll be detailing more on our investments and rapid response efforts in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more on how we’re ramping up efforts to ensure that corporations are held to account during this crisis, and beyond.