from the you're-really-not-helping dept
Not only have corporate efforts to monopolize repair resulted in a flood of proposed state and federal laws, the Biden Administration’s recent executive order on monopoly power and competition urged the FTC to tighten up its rules on repair monopolization efforts, whether it’s ham-fisted DRM, or making repair manuals, parts, and diagnostics hard to come by.
At the receiving end of much of the movement’s ire has been John Deere, whose draconian repair restrictions on agricultural equipment often result in customers having to pay an arm and a leg, or drive hundreds of additional, costly miles to get their tractors repaired.
Last week, Motherboard profiled Missouri farmer Jared Wilson, who says a John Deere dealership simply refused to repair his tractor’s broken air conditioning. Why? Wilson was told by the dealership that he wasn’t a profitable customer because he had complained about repeated, low-quality repair work by the John Deere dealership:
Knowing he’d never make it through the rest of his plant without a little cooling in the tractor, he called his local John Deere dealership: Heritage Tractor. He got the manager on the phone. According to Wilson’s affidavit, the manager said that, “I was not a ‘profitable customer,’ due to my repeated repair service complaints and written notices to John Deere’s corporate office about my dissatisfaction with Heritage Tractor’s repair services.”
As recently as 2013 there used to be four repair shops within range of Wilson’s farm. Now there’s just one; a direct result of John Deere’s efforts to monopolize repair, making it difficult to impossible for farmers and repair shops to access, test, or modify system software. To expand his options would require loading the tractor on a truck and hauling it some 80 miles at significant additional cost.
Thanks to the FTC’s updated guidance, an FTC complaint finally got the dealership to repair his tractor. But the farmer was quick to note the whole process remains expensive and annoying, even with his temporary victory:
After some back and forth and an affidavit filed with the FTC about the fight, Wilson said that Heritage Tractor relented and agreed to send someone to look at Wilson’s tractor. But it’s always a fight and he’s tired of it. Worse, it’s costing him money. “Farmers are losing profitably, even with this technology being added,” Wilson said. “Because the additional cost of it is compressing our margin.”
As the country faces increasing challenges due to a shifting climate, this is the precise sort of counterproductive, idiotic bureaucracy that needs to die. Despite the growing threat of state and federal right to repair legislation, promises by John Deere to improve things haven’t materialized, resulting in the company getting hit with numerous, simultaneous lawsuits and a surge in similar FTC complaints.