Manufacturers lock consumers into restrictive "user agreements," and inside "there's things like you won't open the case, you won't repair," complains a U.S. advocacy group called The Repair Association
. But now the issue is getting some more attention in the American press. An anonymous reader quotes NPR:
Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. But because today's tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by GPS, you also need a software key -- to fix the programs that make a tractor run properly. And farmers don't get that key.
"You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, who plants and harvests fields in southeast Nebraska... "Maybe a gasket or something you can fix, but everything else is computer controlled and so if it breaks down I'm really in a bad spot," Schwarting says.
He has to call the dealer. Only dealerships have the software to make those parts work, and it costs hundreds of dollars just to get a service call. Schwarting worries about being broken down in a field, waiting for a dealer to show up with a software key.
The article points out that equipment dealers are using those expensive repair calls to offset slumping tractor sales. But it also reports that eight U.S. states, including Nebraska, Illinois and New York, are still considering bills requiring manufacturers to sell repair software, adding that after Massachusetts passed a similar lar, "car makers started selling repair software."