Apple and John Deere fight “right to repair” bill in the U.S.
Published 9 March 2017 by Elsa Ferreira
In America, the farming tech industry and consumers are butting heads on the right to repair bill. Eight states are considering the legislation, and Nebraska will debate the bill this March 9. Beware the domino effect…
London, from our correspondent
In America, the right to repair is on its way… but it’s a rocky road ahead. Eight states are considering “right to repair” laws that would require companies to give independent shops and owners access to information, manuals, diagnostics, tools, spare parts and critical updates—whereas this information is currently reserved to select suppliers. The legislation is being discussed in Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Wyoming and Nebraska, where the bill will be debated this March 9.
It’s a long battle, as the right to repair has been a controversial topic since at least 2015. Organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Ifixit and Repair.org are lobbying in support of the bill. Machine owners as well. In the farming state of Nebraska, farmers are fighting for the legal right to fix their equipment, reports The Guardian. For example, 36-year-old farmer Kyle Schwarting’s $250,000 tractor has a problem: every ten minutes, an alarm rings—for almost a year now.
“Because farm machinery is now so high-tech, the only way to silence the error message is by plugging in a special diagnostic tool—essentially a computer loaded with troubleshooting software that connects to a port inside the tractor—to identify and resolve the problem,” writes The Guardian. “Only manufacturers and authorized dealers are allowed that tool, and they charge hundreds of dollars in call-out fees to use it.”
Big industries are not going down without a fight. For companies such as tractor manufacturer John Deere or Apple, this legislation would cut their profit from selected repair shops. Nebraska Senator Lydia Brasch, who sponsored the bill, said an Apple lobbyist told her that passing the measure would make Nebraska “the mecca for bad actors”, i.e. “hackers” could “relocate to Nebraska”, reports Ars Electronica. John Deere went as far as to claim that farmers don’t own their tractors, despite the several hundred thousands dollars they paid for them, but instead receive a “license to operate the vehicle”, according to The Guardian.
All eyes will be on the debate of the Fair Repair Act today in Nebraska. “If [the bill] passes, Nebraska will be the first state to pass this legislation, and it would have a domino effect nationwide,” said Senator Lydia Brasch.
In France, planned obsolescence is a crime since 2015 and is punishable by up to two years in prison and a 300,000€ fine, but the country has yet to observe a legal “right to repair”.