Understanding the global right to repair movement

Right to repair reviews a hot topic in United States and Australia

Machinery
Farmers' right to repair agricultural machinery has become a contentious topic across the globe. Picture: Shutterstock

Farmers' right to repair agricultural machinery has become a contentious topic across the globe. Picture: Shutterstock

Aa

'The stars are aligning' to get action for farmers on the right to repair their own machinery, or use independent repairers, without voiding warranty clauses.

Aa

'The stars are aligning' to get action for farmers on the right to repair their own machinery, or use independent repairers, without voiding warranty clauses.

That's according to National Farmers' Federation chief economist and trade general manager Ash Salardini, who said repairs such as changing a hose should not compromise warranty or require farmers to use an authorised dealer.

Mr Salardini said for more complex repairs, all repairers should have access to the data and manuals needed, not just 'the ones that have been ordained by the manufacturers'.

Consumers' right to repair has become a contentious topic across the globe, with the use of software locks and proprietary parts impacting not just farm machinery but mobile phones and cars.

Read more:

Mr Salardini said the issue often became most apparent at harvest time, when farmers could not afford lengthy delays.

"One of the issues for us around the right to repair is farmers' ability to access the most affordable and timely repair service," he said.

"Some farmers have to wait months to get their farm machinery fixed and at a higher price.

"Waiting months to get your machinery repaired is the difference between a profitable year or not a profitable year."

Mr Salardini said some dealers and manufacturers were using ongoing servicing as an income stream.

"Essentially it is a river of gold for the manufacturers and dealers," he said.

Australia's right to repair rules are currently under review, with the Productivity Commission's draft report open for submissions.

Waiting months to get your machinery repaired is the difference between a profitable year or not a profitable year. - Ash Salardini

Public hearings are taking place next week in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra from July 19 to 21.

NFF will make a submission on the draft report.

A global issue

With United States President Joe Biden signing an executive order promoting competition last Friday, stakeholders are interested in what similarities might arise between the US and Australia's right to repair legislation.

The order is broad-reaching and includes 72 initiatives across a range of sectors, from labor markets to healthcare and right to repair in the agricultural sector.

Ahead of signing the order, Mr Biden said at "the heart of American capitalism is a simple idea - open and fair competition".

"What we've seen over the past few decades is less competition and more concentration that holds our economy back," he said.

"We see it in big agriculture, in big tech, in big pharma - the list goes on - rather than competing for consumers they are consuming their competitors."

As part of the order, the Federal Trade Commission will be encouraged to "limit powerful equipment manufacturers from restricting people's ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs - such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors".

Meanwhile in the UK, the government introduced right to repair legislation last week.

The legislation is not as encompassing as other countries, only targeting some of the white goods sector, and is aimed at reducing e-waste.

Similar legislation has also been passed in the European parliament, ensuring certain appliances are able to to be repaired for up to 10 years.

We see it in big agriculture, in big tech, in big pharma - the list goes on - rather than competing for consumers they are consuming their competitors. - Joe Biden

Australian Catholic University Professor of Law Rocque Reynolds specialises in intellectual property and agricultural law.

Professor Reynolds said when it comes to right to repair in Australia, the government's focus has been around the consumer rights issue.

This was juxtaposed against the US government's focus on the competition issue, while for others the bigger issue was around sustainability.

Prof Reynolds said while the drivers were different in each jurisdiction, focusing on the behaviour of the big players was really important.

"I think it's time for a general rethink about how people approach goods because the model has been very much based on goods that break down and you just renew," Prof Reynolds said.

"I think it [what's happening overseas] can give people confidence to think we're not going outside the international framework for protecting property.

"However if you just focus on consumer rights, then you've still only got one player, you're not changing the fundamental balance."

Prof Reynolds likened the situation to a library and said the issue was part of a 'much broader problem of property and information being locked up'.

"In the olden days you would go to a library and borrow a book, and everyone could access that book," she said.

"Now with the contracts because it is electronic you can lock up all that information within an electronic book; and the library has agreed not to let the community in.

"It's not enough to just put minimum requirements in the legislation, you have to make a positive duty on the producers to share the information."

CNH Industrial declined to comment and John Deere did not respond to requests for comment.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by