Risky Business: Why “Right to Repair” Really is Right to Do Wrong

American manufacturers and dealers of agricultural equipment own a long-standing commitment to ensuring farmers and other end users have the tools they need to minimize downtime and ensure quick, efficient repairs. It’s just one of the ways the industry serves its customers.

However, so-called “right to repair” activists have started to misinform end users, causing some to steal proprietary embedded code and modify software in a way that violates environmental and safety laws. What right to repair really is an attempt to have right to do wrong – and it’s wrong for the agriculture equipment industry.

This is what the law says. The Clean Air Act (CAA) prohibits any person to manufacture or sell, or offer to sell, or install, any part or component intended for use with, or as part of, any motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine, where a principal effect of the part or component is to bypass, defeat, or render inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine in compliance with regulations, and where the person knows or should know that such part or component is being offered for sale or installed for such use or put to such use.

According to the CAA, the law also prohibits any person to from removing or rendering inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle engine in compliance with regulations prior to its sale and delivery to the ultimate purchaser, or for any person knowingly to remove or render inoperative any such device or element of design after such sale and delivery to the ultimate purchaser. These regulations, in essence, prohibit the sale or installation of “defeat” (sometimes called “chipping”) devices which are designed to bypass emissions systems or the tampering with emissions systems in order to disable them.

“Chippers” of agricultural equipment have been advocating across the country for so-called right to repair legislation. The truth is, they don’t want to repair anything – they want to modify it so that it violates the CAA.

What activists don’t say is how costly illegally modifying equipment can cost users. For example Derive Systems, which manufacturers the “Bully Dog” and “SCT” chipping software systems, was fined $300,000 and will have to pay more than $6,000,000 to make sure that any future products it creates are compliant with the CAA.

Farmers and other law-abiding end users need to know installing these illegal and dangerous modifications to their valuable equipment violates federal law and have far more risks than benefits. On top of substantial fines from the EPA for violating the CAA, modifications, such as the ones sold by “Bully Dog” and “SCT” can void manufacturer warranties, may negatively impact trade in value and expose farmers and end users to shortened equipment life because of the operation of the equipment out of manufacturer specifications.