Farmer Organizations File Complaint with FTC Alleging John Deere of Antitrust and Consumer Protection Violations | News

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWL) – In a 42-page complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, the National Farmer’s Union and a handful of other organizations representing farmers are asking the FTC to investigate John Deere over what they believe is violations of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.

The complaint argues that the company’s policy on repairing broken John Deere equipment effectively prevents farmers from fixing their broken machine themselves or taking it to an independent mechanic.

The only one who can repair a broken machine is an authorized John Deere technician, which the groups say makes repairs more difficult and more expensive.

“Deere designs its tractors, combines and other large equipment so that if it breaks down or malfunctions, a farmer can’t fix the problem and, in many cases, can’t even figure out what the problem is. problem,” said Jamie Crooks, the lead counsel on the matter. “Unless he contacts his local Deere dealer, who is often many miles away and pays a fee for that technician to come to his farm, which can take days or have to drag his equipment to his farm. dealer and pay artificially inflated rates to get the problem assessed and the problem fixed.”

John Deere is responsible for about 50% of all large agricultural tractors sold and about 60% of combines sold.

The lawsuit accuses John Deere of withholding software, parts and other information needed to repair broken John Deere equipment.

During a press conference on WednesdayCrooks said he believed John Deere was taking advantage of the broken equipment.

“Over the past several years, Deere’s margins on repairs have been three to six times more profitable than its margins on equipment,” he said. “It really is a profit-driven decision.”

Jared Wilson, a Missouri farmer, said repairs sometimes took weeks. He said waiting for the dealer to fix equipment is costly for farmers, especially during critical times of the year like planting or harvesting crops.

“Over the past five years, I’ve collectively lost months of time during these important parts of the year, and I have no doubt it’s cost my farm hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Wilson said. “There are hundreds of thousands of farmers growing our food, and every time we step into this piece of equipment, we cross our proverbial fingers that nothing breaks because we can’t fix it. And we know that it will take days or even weeks for the dealership to get us racing again.”

The complaint cites a May 2021 report from the Federal Trade Commission describing how companies are “restricting independent repairs by consumers.”

  • Product designs that complicate or prevent repair
  • Unavailability of parts and repair information
  • Policies or statements that direct consumers to manufacturers’ repair networks
  • Non-OEM bashing [original equipment manufacturer] independent parts and repair
  • Software locks and firmware updates
  • End User License Agreements

The groups also accuse John Deere of engaging in “unfair and deceptive marketing practices”.

“In 2018, Deere, through its associations, issued a statement of principles saying that we understand that we hear you and that by 2021 we will make available to you the information necessary to perform these repairs yourself. “, said Crook. “2021 has come and gone, and how they make that available through an expensive service, not just making the information available. You have to pay thousands of dollars a year for that, and it still doesn’t let you do that . “

Walter Schweitzer, a Montana farmer and president of the Montana Farmers Union, said it made him particularly angry since the farmers had just emerged from a trade war with China.

“Equipment manufacturers wanted to build their technology in China, and they were told that if they wanted to build it in China, they had to share the technology and the patents with China to build that technology,” Schweitzer said. “We had this trade war that caused us to lose markets that we spent three or more decades developing. It cost us a lot of money for this trade war, and then they turn around and hold us hostage to their technology. to repair our own equipment.”

The group is asking the FTC to do three things:

  1. Investigate Deere’s use of anti-competitive exclusives, tied selling, attempted monopolization, and monopolization.
  2. Take appropriate steps to prohibit Deere from withholding information in its possession that is necessary for the repair and maintenance of Deere equipment.
  3. Impose all other penalties and take other appropriate actions that are just and appropriate.

KWWL has contacted John Deere to comment on the lawsuit, but did not hear back at press time.

You can read the full complaint here.