Tesla’s Repair Restrictions Spark Antitrust Lawsuits

Tesla’s Repair Restrictions Spark Antitrust Lawsuits

Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of. Fortunately, the folks over at the Fight to Repair newsletter are here to help: recapping the most important repair news for iFixit readers. As a special offer, iFixit.com readers can claim a free, 60-day premium membership to the Fight to Repair newsletter. Visit fighttorepair.substack.com/ifixit to claim your premium membership!

Tesla Inc. is named in a pair of proposed class action lawsuits that accuse the company of unlawfully curbing competition for maintenance and replacement parts for its electric vehicles, forcing owners to pay more and wait longer for repair services in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. The lawsuits (PDF) filed on Tuesday and Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, allege that Tesla limits repair in a bunch of ways:

  • Restrictive warranties: Structures its vehicle warranties and related policies to discourage Tesla owners from obtaining parts or services anywhere other than Tesla.
  • Unrepairable product design: Designs its vehicles so that maintenance and repairs require access to diagnostic and telematic information accessible only through remote-management tools, exclusively available to Tesla.
  • Limit information: Limits access to its manuals, diagnostic tools, vehicle telematic data, and original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) replacement parts.
  • Discourages independent repair: Discourages owners and lessees from using independent shops outside of Tesla’s control.

The suits are similar to those filed against the agricultural equipment maker John Deere. Beginning in January 2022, farmers began suing Deere, arguing the company is violating U.S. anti-trust law by thwarting the ability of farmers to service and repair their own equipment. The company has also artificially restricted the market for authorized repair through a policy of forcing small, independent John Deere dealerships to consolidate or lose their franchise, the lawsuit alleges.

A peek inside a Tesla, courtesy Windell Oskay on Flickr, shows how deeply buried the battery is—not designed for easy replacement.

Tesla has previously raised eyebrows over its software use—and abuse—to compel the usage of Tesla parts and service. For example, the company made headlines after refusing to enable a safety-oriented software feature dubbed “Trailer Mode.” Tesla Model X and Model Y owners raised alarms that this critical feature—officially called Trailer Mode—is locked behind a pricey $1,300 OEM paywall, one that is out of stock in countries like the UK.

If unchecked, these companies will continue to use their market power to limit competition and maintain monopolies on repair of their products. The end game? Extracting higher profits from consumers. These lawsuits are calling attention to corporations restricting the information, tools, and parts needed to fix equipment. And they will be crucial in establishing legal precedents that protect the rights of consumers and independent repair shops to repair their own equipment.

Other News

  • Colorado Senate passes agricultural repair bill: Colorado farmers are a vote and a signature away from having the right to repair their tractors, after the state senate followed the lead of the Colorado House in passing the Consumer Right to Repair Agricultural Equipment Act (HB23-1011) Thursday on a 25-8, bipartisan vote. The bill would provide farmers with repair options by requiring manufacturers to make available all materials needed to fix farm equipment such as tractors and combines.
  • Australia hones in on agricultural repair: Australian farmers are calling for the right to repair their farming equipment, as many manufacturers keep a firm grip on the software that diagnoses issues, as well as spare parts. Federal Competition Minister Andrew Leigh said he wants either manufacturers to join a voluntary scheme in Australia, or the government to create a mandate.
  • Recycling won’t fix our overproduction problem: A recent UN agreement to protect oceans aims to place 30% of seas into protected areas by 2030, but plastic pollution remains a growing issue. A new report from the 5 Gyres Institute warns that policymakers must put greater emphasis on reuse and tackle the problem at source rather than focusing solely on clean-up and recycling. The study warns that without immediate action, the rate of plastic entering aquatic environments is expected to increase approximately 2.6x from 2016 to 2040.
  • Companies will pay for lies about sustainability: To combat greenwashing, regulators are cracking down on companies making unsubstantiated sustainability claims, and consumer authorities are urging brands to use more specific claims. Norway and the UK have taken action against firms that have made misleading environmental claims. Stricter legislation is also being called for, and some experts are recommending that claims be harmonized to make them comparable.
  • Clothing durability as important as recycling: Making clothing more durable, repairable, and recyclable, and clearly labeled is the EU’s 2030 goal. Yet, despite rising greenhouse gas emissions and thousands of discarded clothes landing in African and Asian ports, the industry continues to ramp up production, making it unlikely that the EU’s goals can be achieved. Only 13% of material used in clothing is currently recycled, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and less than 1% is used to create new garments.