from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
Last year agricultural equipment giant John Deere found itself on the receiving end of an antitrust lawsuit for its efforts to monopolize tractor repair. The lawsuits noted that the company consistently purchased competing repair centers in order to consolidate the sector and force customers into using the company’s own repair facilities, driving up costs and logistical hurdles dramatically for farmers.
The lawsuits also noted how the company routinely makes repair difficult and costly through the act of software locks, obnoxious DRM, and “parts pairing” — which involves only allowing the installation of company-certified replacement parts — or mandatory collections of company-blessed components.
“In a forceful, 89-page memorandum, U.S. District Court Judge Iain Johnson wrote that the founder of John Deere “was an innovative farmer and blacksmith who—with his own hands—fundamentally changed the agricultural industry.” Deere the man “would be deeply disappointed in his namesake corporation” if the plaintiffs can ultimately prove their antitrust allegations against Deere the company, which are voluminous and well-documented.”
John Deere has spent years promising farmers that they’d reverse course on their efforts to monopolize repair, only to ignore their own promises. The company has also been striking meaningless “memorandums of understanding” with key trade groups, pinky swearing to stop their bad behavior if the groups agree to not support state or federal right to repair legislation.
The market isn’t going to fix this problem by itself. It’s clearly going to require a combination of antitrust reform, regulatory action, new state/federal legislation, and meaningful class action penalties before John Deere executives finally get the message. And unfortunately for them, right to repair reform continues to see stunning levels of bipartisan public support.