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Right to Repair in Agriculture

February 25, 2022
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Elena Bickell

Although modern agricultural equipment, such as combines, often includes computer technology, End User License Agreements do not allow repairs when the equipment breaks down unless they are performed by the manufacturer. The “right to repair” in agriculture allows farmers, farm operators and other independent repair providers to fix farm equipment without facing legal repercussions from manufacturers. House Bill 2402 and Senate Bill 1086 would allow owners of products purchased or used in Missouri and independent repair providers to have the right to access the same diagnostic and repair information that manufacturers supply to authorized repair providers. The bills also introduce provisions for non-compliance or violation of the rules by the manufacturers or retailers.

Highlights 

  • Authorization requirements and repair restrictions may limit farmers’ access to repair options, increase costs for consumers, increase wait times, and decrease opportunities for repair shops and servicing in rural communities.
  • For farm equipment, software technological protection measures (TPMs) that prevent access to the code or modification of software prohibit farmers from being able to find third-party repair markets.
    • Software restrictions created by TPMs and network connectivity can prevent repair or modification to equipment by rendering machinery inoperable unless “activated” by approved technicians with specialized tools or software.
  • Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, manufacturers cannot forcefully tie their services to the purchased product, unless it is free to the customer.
  • Since 2021, 27 states have introduced repair-friendly legislation that would allow repairability and reopening of repair markets, regarding farm equipment, consumer electronic devices and medical devices.

Limitations

  • Even if legal reforms in repair and servicing at the state level were made, federal intellectual property laws may dictate consumer rights to repair.
  • Some existing federal copyright laws, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), can come in conflict with other existing federal antitrust laws, such as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the Sherman Antitrust Act or Federal Trade Commission Act.

 

This Note has been updated. You can access the previous version (published March 2021) here.

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