Biden Admin Sides With Farms on Repairs

The Biden administration has sided with farmers in an ongoing right-to-repair antitrust lawsuit filed against John Deere, asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Illinois on Monday to rule against a company motion that could lead to dismissal in the case.

All the cases allege John Deere violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and seek damages for farmers who paid for repairs from John Deere dealers beginning on Jan. 12, 2018, to the present.

The cases allege the company has monopolized the repair service market for John Deere brand agricultural equipment with onboard central computers known as engine control units, or ECUs.

In December 2022, the company filed a motion seeking judgement on the pleadings. Deere essentially asked the court to rule on the facts already presented before a trial can be held.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday filed a motion asking the court to reject Deere’s arguments and to rule in the farms’ favor.

The DOJ filed what is called a “statement of interest.” In particular, the Biden administration said it was concerned if the court rules in Deere’s favor, it would harm U.S. interests as they pertain to the Sherman Antitrust Act.

John Deere’s motion alleged the farmer plaintiffs lack legal standing to sue, fail to identify a “plausible relevant market” to base their claims, fail to “plausibly allege” Deere has monopoly power in the repair-services market, and fail to “plausibly allege” any “anticompetitive” conduct.

In addition, the company argues the farmer plaintiffs didn’t identify a “co-conspirator” in the complaint.

“Deere argues that its repair restrictions are effectively immune from antitrust scrutiny unless Deere either (1) deceived plaintiffs by hiding the restrictions before plaintiffs bought their tractors; or (2) surprised plaintiffs by imposing the restrictions after plaintiffs’ purchases,” the Biden administration said in its statement to the court.

The DOJ asked the court to reject John Deere’s argument that the company should not face antitrust scrutiny unless it can be proven the company either deceived or surprised plaintiffs with imposing restrictions on how equipment can be repaired.

“Increasingly, product manufacturers have made products harder to fix and maintain,” the DOJ said in its statement to the court.