Biden Praises Right To Repair, As John Deere Hit With Two Fresh Repair Lawsuits

from the nerdy-nich-no-longer dept

While there’s been no shortage of dumb and frustrating tech policy debates in recent years, one of the more positive shifts has been watching the “right to repair” movement shift from the fringe to massively mainstream. Once just the concern of pissed off farmers and nerdy tinkerers, the last two years have seen a groundswell of broader culture awareness about the perils of letting companies like Apple, John Deere, Microsoft, or Sony monopolize repair. And the dumb lengths most of these companies have gone to make repairing things you own both more difficult and way more expensive.

Things shifted greatly last July when President Biden formally included some right to repair measures in a broad executive order demanding the FTC craft stricter rules targeting efforts to hamstring independent and consumer repair options. This week the president gave the subject another mainstream boost with statements before the White House Competition Council lauding right to repair (as well as a tweet):

Granted it’s still not entirely clear how much the traditionally understaffed and under-resourced FTC can do. The agency is greatly constrained under the FTC Act to intervene only when something is clearly “unfair and deceptive.” And a lot of companies like Apple and John Deere have gone to great lengths trying to frame their repair monopolization efforts (whether that’s bullying independent repair shops or DRM) as efforts to protect consumer safety and security. Which is to say we still have a lot of legal skirmishes waiting in the wings.

Like the two different new lawsuits filed against John Deere this week, alleging the company of violating antitrust laws by unlawfully monopolizing the tractor repair market. As we’ve long reported, the right to repair movement really took off several years back when farmers began complaining John Deere was making it a costly nightmare to repair farm equipment. Farmers were not only prevented from making even basic repairs themselves, they were routinely forced to take equipment to official John Deere repair centers — which often required thousands of additional dollars and, for some, extremely long trips.

Knowing the staffing, legal, and resource limitations of the FTC, most companies are far more concerned about the push for state and federal right to repair legislation than they are about Biden’s EO. As such, they’ve taken a handful of steps, quite often rather performative, to try and stall legislative reform. They also continue to make numerous bullshit arguments in this space as well, like the auto industry’s ongoing quest to limit Massachusetts legislation by claiming (falsely) that it would embolden sexual predators.

So while there’s a lot of work left to do on this front, it’s progress all the same — made possible by growing awareness. In fairly short order it went from the concern of a few nerds in Nebraska to being something supported by the president. In a tech policy arena saturated with no limit of stupid arguments (the attacks on Section 230 come quickly to mind) and gridlocked debates, it’s kind of refreshing to see popular, bipartisan policy improvements get the attention they deserve.

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Comments on “Biden Praises Right To Repair, As John Deere Hit With Two Fresh Repair Lawsuits”

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15 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Part of the problem these days is that people are being offered items that include services "as a convenience" along with the items.

Smart Home appliances that have a web interface run by the vendor. Exercise equipment with a "dashboard and entertainment center" … run by the vendor. Bluetooth speakers that receive software updates (which can brick them). For pity’s sake, chastity devices controlled through wifi … through the vendor’s web site. The list is endless.

And once the vendor decides to move on, that extra functionality – in some cases, the base functionality – gets killed and you have a paper weight on your hands.

Some amount of blame rests on the buyers of these products. Their purchase encourages the vendors to go one step further. And one step further. And if enough such vendors do (oligopoly or monopoly), it takes legislation to root them out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some the products, yes, consumers decided to give them a market. Cars, phones, computers, farming machinery, healthcare equipment, and similar items are necessary or were allowed to become necessary long, long ago. Unfortunately, industries decided to use silicon to lock out repair and consumer control, increase parts, services, and supply costs moreso than actually improving the product. Most products don’t even really benefit from electronics, code, or networking whatsoever, but they’ll find a way to stuff it in, like an electronic sausage.

Discuss It (profile) says:

"Products I own?" Oh, really?

dumb lengths most of these companies have gone to make repairing things you own both

The issue I have is that Products from these companies aren’t things I can OWN. At best, it’s renting. From a land lord that wants to inspect my underwear. Whenever they want, even at 3 in the morning.

I haven’t purchased anything from Sony for thirty years now. I’ve never bought a single thing from Apple new. I am holding in my hand the LAST Apple product I will permit past my thresh hold. It’s replacement is waiting for me on my work bench right now.

Microsoft is at least honest about their software in that they make zero pretense you own it. I don’t consider their operating systems worth bothering with & I never bought any of them past DOS. (Windows 3 is DOS with graphics.)

To say that I have an extreme dislike for Apple, Microsoft, or Sony would be an understatement.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: "Products I own?" Oh, really?

In the eyes of the law, you own the hardware but only license the software that is required to make that hardware work.

The premise here is that, yes, it’s absurd to claim that you own a piece of hardware if you’re not able to access functionality that is required in order for that hardware to work.

You seem to understand this premise perfectly well, so I’m not sure why you’re arguing with it.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Products I own?" Oh, really?

I’m less concerned with the ownership of software for a desktop computer, than I am for a car. I have a mid 2k Jaguar, that to change any component that is addressed by the Can Bus, you need Jaguar software to tell the car it is okay to accept a new sensor, or whatever. The owners have banded together and figured out what works, but that is another layer of expense to buy a laptop, a special wire to connect it, and assuming you aren’t a pirate, the software to make it all work. They want you to bring it in, but once it gets 10 years old they really don’t want to work on it. Once it get 20 years old, they often abandon the software, and go to a new system that excludes the older cars. Leaving you on your own, unless you know a mechanic that specializes in obsolete software, (which I do).

Anonymous Coward says:

Where does the party of "individual freedom" stand on this issue? Given that they’ll like control one or both houses next year, they are going to matter.

I’m assuming opposed, given their stance on wombs, but if the farmers have the pitch forks out….

And no chance they’ll support the FTC, so, I guess maybe I have my answer already?

ECA (profile) says:

How many things-

Have we stopped buying because they Keep failing?
Printers?
Ink?
What makes a remote control Cheap? It dies in 12 months, + 1 day.
Prices on food keep going up, for some Imaginary reason. Because the farmers arent getting more money.
Anyone looked at Pickup trucks? and the rear end. It used to be a Close Shell, now its Just Hallow and no bottom, most times.
I warn the young ones about a car failing now days, get a cheap old car, and run it around 1-2 days per year. When that computer fails, you Still have a way to go fishing.
And IMO, the hardware cost of those computers should be about $50.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Part of thats been done.
CIS systems were sued, as they had an external Ink system.
For the $80+ for regular ink, you could buy 2-4 oz of each color And connect inside the Printer.
The Companies making Making the CIS systems, Won.

BUT, thats not stopping the Printers being Changed to NOT allow access from External devices. Lock the case.

Techservice says:

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• You’ll be able to check in to your HBO Max account and watch video on your Samsung Smart TV after this is done.

All you have to do is follow these steps, then you can enjoy your favorite TV shows and movies without any interruption.
You can still follow these instructions if you don’t have an HBO account yet, but you’ll need to create one. HBO max/tv sign in or sign up. To manage your settings and profiles, you’ll need to create an account.

Follow these steps to log out of your smart TV:
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