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Tesla hit with 'right to repair' antitrust class actions

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Tesla is seen at a Tesla Supercharger station

By Mike Scarcella

(Reuters) - Tesla Inc has been sued in a pair of proposed antitrust class actions accusing 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.

The lawsuits, filed on Tuesday and Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, allege that Tesla designed its electric vehicles, warranties and repair policies to discourage owners and lessees from using independent shops outside of Tesla's control.

"Tesla needs to open up its ecosystem and allow competition for the servicing of Tesla [vehicles] and sales of parts," said plaintiffs lawyer Matthew Ruan of Freed Kanner London & Millen, who filed one of the proposed class actions.

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A representative from Austin, Texas-based Tesla did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Tesla defense counsel have not yet made an appearance in the cases.

The proposed class in both cases would include anyone who has paid Tesla for repairs or parts since March 2019.

Each complaint was filed on behalf of a California resident, and neither lawsuit specified a damages amount. Ruan said the potential class includes hundreds of thousands of Tesla owners and lessees, so damages could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lawyers from McCune Law Group, which filed a similar class action complaint on Wednesday, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Tesla, the world's most valuable automaker, recorded revenue of $24.32 billion for the fourth quarter. The company delivered 405,278 vehicles in the quarter.

Tesla joins other major vehicle makers facing "right to repair" antitrust litigation over alleged exclusionary conduct.

A group of cases against Harley-Davidson Motor Co Group LLC were recently consolidated in Wisconsin federal court, and Deere & Co, the world's largest farm equipment maker, is defending against allegations in federal district court in Chicago. Both companies have denied claims.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2021 issued a policy statement that said the agency would make it a priority to address manufacturer restrictions on repairs and parts.

Tesla's alleged restraints on service and repair, according to the new lawsuits, caused "exorbitant wait times" for drivers who otherwise would have gone to an independent repair shop.

The lawsuits call for Tesla's repair services and parts monopoly to be "dismantled" and for the company to be ordered to make its repair manuals and diagnostic tools "available to individuals and independent repair shops at a reasonable cost."

The cases are Virginia Lambrix v Tesla Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 3:23-cv-01145; and Robert Orendian v. Tesla, No. 3:23-cv-01157.

Read more:

Harley-Davidson hit with class actions over 'right to repair' restrictions

U.S. FTC settles with Weber grills over 'right to repair'

FTC votes to make 'right to repair' a priority, drops 1995 merger policy

(Reporting by Mike Scarcella)