The agriculture industry stands to benefit immensely from more competition in the area of machine repairs, with Australia’s consumer watchdog calling for more companies operating in the space to lower costs for the industry.
Farmers that have purchased expensive pieces of machinery stand to benefit from more competition in the aftermarket servicing and repair industries, as well as access to technical information and software that can help minimise costs for machine repairs.
The call comes from the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) who says that after a lengthy investigation, a recently published report shows that expensive agricultural machines often limit the ability of farmers and independent repairers to fix them.
This issue relates to the implementation of software that essentially makes repairs unfeasible unless the machinery is taken to a licensed dealer, where a fix is made, often at a premium for the work that is actually done.
Quite often, owners of the machinery are unable to diagnose even the most simple of machine issues, as they’re not allowed to purchase a diagnostic tool. Instead, they are asked to bring their machine to the dealership where a diagnosis, and potential fix can be made.
The ACCC says that “while this technology has increased productivity, it has also meant that access to this software, tools and the parts needed to repair the machine [is limited]. These are often held or controlled by manufacturers, limiting the ability of independent repairers to do the work.”
Chief among the report’s recommendations is that the agriculture industry as a whole would benefit not only from more competition for machine repairs, but also that agricultural machinery should be added to the list of equipment covers by the ‘right to repair’ scheme that has been introduced in Australia.
Agriculture Industry Would Benefit From Competition For Machine Repairs
“The ACCC believes that future right to repair legislation could include requirements for manufacturers to: grant access to diagnosis software tools and parts to independent repairers on commercially reasonable terms; have a sufficient supply of parts readily available in Australia; and provide purchasers with information about how long a certain software system will be supported.”
The ACCC’s Deputy Chair, Mick Keogh says that “competition in after-sales markets would be improved if independent repairers had access to software tools and parts on fair and reasonable commercial terms. This is an important issue that runs across a number of industries, both in Australia and overseas.”
Another key concern for the ACCC is that “many warranties have significant limitations,” namely short duration times which often cover repairs for 12-24 months.
“The survey we conducted showed that purchases often don’t understand the terms of warranties when they buy agricultural machinery, which involves a significant investment.”
One of the ACCC’s major recommendations is that manufacturers and dealerships should be mandated to more thoroughly explain their warranty policies and dispute resolution methods prior to the purchase of machinery that often totals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Educating those purchasing agricultural machinery and equipment on their consumer rights is an essential part of this puzzle, says the ACCC.
Keogh continued to explain that the collection and use of data collected by these machines is also an important issue. He said that “our survey findings inculcate that many purchasers of agricultural machinery don’t understand the circumstances under which manufacturers can collect, share and use the data generated by their machines.”