The consumer watchdog is turning its attention to farm machinery, citing concerns about manufacturer warranties and conditions of service and repair.
Released last week, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission discussion paper Agricultural machinery: After-sales markets, raised a number of concerns relating to competition and fair trading issues.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said the next step was to seek feedback from farmers and contractors, regarding their own experiences.
"Agricultural machinery costs a lot to purchase and maintain. We are concerned by a number of issues surrounding the sale and servicing of agricultural machinery and want to better understand the extent," he said.
"A number of barriers, including warranty clauses, may be preventing farmers from using an independent business to repair or service their equipment. We hear that this can result in delays at critical times."
Mr Keogh said he was unsure of the number of independent repairers actually operating, or the size of the issue, and hoped surveying owners would provide extra information.
Another issue identified in the paper was the fact that the Australian Consumer Law did not currently extend to agricultural machinery valued above $40,000.
Mr Keogh said this meant agricultural faults needed to be covered by warranty or be repaired at the owners' cost.
"Manufacturers have significant discretion as to what warranty protections are offered and how they apply, and we're concerned that farmers may not be aware of these limitations," he said.
Mr Keogh acknowledged that in an industry such as agriculture, brand reputation and customer satisfaction played a significant role in ensuring on-going business referrals.
Along with concerns relating to parts and repair, Mr Keogh said the ACCC was also interested in investigating issues related to data ownership and management, where proprietary arrangements could impact on privacy and competition.
"Production data becomes more valuable to a farmer the more they accumulate it, so the lack of any clear rights to this data may create a barrier to switching between brands of machinery," he said.
"We are interested in farmers' experiences when purchasing and obtaining repairs to agricultural machinery, and encourage them to contribute to our survey."