Randy Fath/Unsplash

(Photo: Randy Fath/Unsplash)
If you thought you had a tough time fixing a broken display on your smartphone, just be grateful you’re not a farmer. Or at least, not a farmer who uses John Deere tractors. In Missouri, a farmer named Jared Wilson recently had the AC go out in his tractor, and he had a devil of a time getting it repaired. In the end he had to file an FTC complaint just to get his tractor examined by his local repair shop. The problems he faced highlight the importance of the right-to-repair movement, and how difficult it can be dealing with a company that refuses to let people fix their own products.

The problems began when Mr. Wilson was trying to plant his corn and soybeans crops in the spring. Although the tractor was functional, the air conditioning stopped working. This made sitting in the all-glass cockpit with a huge motor right in front of him unbearable. He contacted the local repair shop — Heritage Tractor — which told him they weren’t interested in helping him. According to an affidavit Wilson filed in the case, the shop told him they had no interest in repairing his tractor. The reason given was that he wasn’t a profitable customer.

The heart of the issue seems to be this: Wilson had this shop do some repairs previously, and he wasn’t happy with the experience. Then, he had the temerity to write to John Deere corporate about his unsatisfactory experiences. Wilson said he took the shop’s response to his request for repairs as a threat. Essentially, he felt they were saying if he kept talking to corporate he’ll never get his tractor fixed.

An online manual shows the parts for a John Deere tractor’s air filtration system.

At this point, most people would just go to a different repair shop. In the tractor world, especially where Wilson lives, that is not an easy feat. Wilson said Heritage Tractor is the only certified John Deere repair shop around for 80 miles. Going to a different shop would also require him to remove the wheels from his tractor just to get it onto a trailer. He contacted several independent repair shops, but they were all waiting weeks for parts. In the end, he was stuck with Heritage Tractor.

Wilson eventually filed a complaint with the FTC, according to Vice. This caused Heritage to relent in its fight and take a look at his tractor. Wilson says even though he was able to get some resolution to the conflict, the entire debacle is still costing him time and money. And every time he’s had an issue it’s been a battle. Of course, none of this would be necessary if John Deere let people repair their own tractors. The company is an notable holdout in the right to repair movement, though Deere has tried to brand itself as more open to the idea of late, with minimal success.

Like other companies that make intricate, expensive products, it only provides the right tools for repairs to certified shops. This is despite a 2018 promise by the company to make repair manuals and tools available to tractor owners. John Deere’s website has a self-repair portal, but it’s not as clear cut as it seems. As one example, clicking “view customer DIY tools” links to a YouTube video. We were able to download tractor manuals and look at parts that could be ordered, however. Despite its efforts John Deere is currently being sued in several states over right to repair issues.

The status of Right-to-Repair for farmers is still up in the air nationally. This is despite the Trump administration getting the ball rolling with stricter FTC scrutiny. That admin began looking into the issue of right to repair for farmers. It eventually delivered a blistering report on the subject, recounting eight specific ways companies restrict access to repairs. The Biden administration has continued the battle, with the president doubling-down on his calls for increased enforcement from the FTC. Back in February Montana Senator John Tester, who is himself also a farmer, introduced the Agriculture Right to Repair Act. The bill seeks to codify into law farmers’ right to repair their own equipment.

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Source From Extremetech
Author: Josh Norem