PIRG, Repair.org call on EPA to investigate Deere over Right to Repair

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WASHINGTON — Repair advocates Repair.org and PIRG called on the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to investigate John Deere for potential violations of the Clean Air Act. Research done by Repair.org discovered that Deere’s repair restrictions seem to run contrary to Clean Air Act requirements related to independent repair and required certifications. However, Deere restricts access to necessary repair software to only its branded technicians and dealerships.

“John Deere is breaking the law and squeezing farmers every day,” said Repair.org Board Member Willie Cade, who conducted the research. “Deere has been locking farmers out of their own tractors while reporting that farmers have full repair choice. This monopolistic practice is not just anti-farmer—it’s anti-American. EPA should figure out exactly what is happening and take corrective action to stop it.”

Deere has opposed Right to Repair legislation—which would require the company to provide access to that software and other necessary repair materials—while facing an FTC complaint filed by PIRG, Repair.org and numerous farmer advocacy organizations, as well as at least 17 class action lawsuits for their anticompetitive repair restrictions. On several occasions, the company has pointed to EPA and environmental concerns as reasons that they refuse to provide access to materials needed in fixing equipment.

“I’ve watched as Deere representatives have told legislators in statehouses across the country they have to restrict farmers’ ability to fix their own equipment in order to abide by emissions regulations,” said PIRG Right to Repair Campaign Director Kevin O’Reilly. “Based on the Repair.org findings, it looks like Deere might be the one blowing smoke.”

John Deere announced in March that it would sell Customer Service ADVISOR, a software tool that provides limited diagnostic and repair capabilities, directly to consumers. This came after a U.S. PIRG Education Fund investigation, confirmed by VICE News, found that Deere had failed to live up to an industry-wide promise to provide such tools by the beginning of 2021. But farmers report that Customer Service ADVISOR does not include access necessary to fix a tractor’s emissions module.

“I was the second customer in the state to get my hands on Customer Service ADVISOR. It didn’t let me fix problems with the emissions system. These kinds of repair restrictions have cost me tens of thousands of dollars,” said Jared Wilson, a farmer from Butler, Missouri. “I comply with environmental regulations because it’s the right thing to do. John Deere should do the same. It’s not every day that farmers look to EPA to be the hero. ”

The EPA requires that manufacturers of nonroad diesel engines apply and obtain a certificate of conformity with the Clean Air Act on an annual basis. If the EPA deems that a manufacturer fails to comply with emissions standards or the Clean Air Act, it can deny or revoke the company’s certification.

“Federal agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission are starting to crack down on illegal repair restricions,” said Repair.org Executive Director Gay Gordon-Byrne, referring to recent FTC actions against Harley-Davidson, Westinghouse and Weber Grills. “Companies like Deere should be warned: If you are illegally blocking customer repair, we’re going to work to hold you accountable.”

In addition to repair restrictions, dealership consolidation is further limiting farmers’ repair choices. A U.S. PIRG Education Fund report found that John Deere’s strategy to consolidate local dealerships into larger chains has led to there being only one Deere dealership chain for every 12,018 farms and every 5.3 million acres of American farmland.

“Repair restrictions are just another example of the ways that excessive corporate control is taking a toll on rural America,” O’Reilly said. “The EPA should do everything in its power to ensure that John Deere fully complies with the Clean Air Act and stops making it harder for farmers to produce our food supply. On our end, we will continue to explore other legal avenues to ensure that John Deere abides by the law—and stops implying that it can’t let farmers fix their equipment, when the law states the opposite.”

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