John Deere Monopolizes Repair Process, FTC Complaint Says

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The complaint alleges that Deere violates antitrust laws by withholding software codes needed to repair tractors and other farm equipment. By forcing Deere equipment owners to use only Deere repair services, Deere is using its market dominance to create an unfair monopoly on repair.

Deere’s dealership consolidation practices further narrow repair choices for farmers. In Illinois, dealership mergers result in about one Deere chain for every 6,000 farms in Illinois. Dealer consolidation results in virtually no competition between dealer networks within the same county, leaving little or no choice when farmers need to repair their tractors.

the FTC could bring immediate relief to Illinois farmers. The FTC’s enforcement power means it can force Deere to make the necessary tools available. The FTC also has subpoena power to step up the investigation into the extent of Deere’s anticompetitive practices.

Shareholder advocates attempted to warn Deere of the potential FTC actions and called Deere to account for their anti-competitive redress policies.

“There is now a tsunami of right-to-repair legislation, potential Federal Trade Commission action on restrictive repair practices, a presidential order that specifically calls out concerns about tractor repair, and the bad press to which Deere faces”, noted shareholder attorney Andrea Ranger. “As investors, that’s a lot of risk for us to take.”

Deere has the opportunity to resolve its right to repair issue before legislation, trial and the FTC’s enforcement collapses on them. Deere should take proactive steps to preemptively lift repair restrictions, and everyone, especially farmers, would be better off.

David J. Lee is associated with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

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