A class action lawsuit filed in Chicago has accused John Deere of running an illegal repair monopoly. Motherboard reports: The lawsuit alleged that John Deere has used software locks and restricted access to repair documentation and tools, making it very difficult for farmers to fix their own agricultural equipment, a problem that Motherboard has documented for years and that lawmakers, the FTC, and even the Biden administration have acknowledged. The lawsuit claims John Deere is violating antitrust rules and also alleges that Deere is illegally “tying” farmers to Deere-authorized service centers through arbitrary means.
“Farmers have traditionally had the ability to repair and maintain their own tractors as needed, or else have had the option to bring their tractors to an independent mechanic,” the lawsuit said. “However, in newer generations of its agricultural equipment, Deere has deliberately monopolized the market for repair and maintenance services of its agricultural equipment with Engine Control Units (ECUs) by making crucial software and repair tools inaccessible to farmers and independent repair shops.”
Forest River Farms, a farming corporation in North Dakota, filed the recent antitrust lawsuit against John Deere, alleging that “Deere’s network of highly-consolidated independent dealerships is not permitted through their agreements with Deere to provide farmers or repair shops with access to the same software and repair tools the Dealerships have.” “As a result of shutting out farmers and independent repair shops from accessing the necessary resources for repairs, Deere and the Dealerships have cornered the Deere Repair Services Market in the United States for Deere-branded agricultural equipment controlled by ECUs and have derived supracompetitive profits from the sale of repair and maintenance services,” the lawsuit, which repeatedly cites some of Motherboard’s reporting on the issue, continues. […] The lawsuit alleges that, though Deere has made some types of software and repair parts available to the public, they are “insufficient to restore competition to the Deere repair services market,” and notes that “there are no legitimate reasons to restrict access to necessary repair tools.”