Wisconsin and Minnesota are two states that have direct laws against hour meter tampering. However, most tampering claims are brought to court under consumer fraud charges. Persons found guilty of defrauding a consumer by tampering can face a misdemeanor, fine and possible imprisonment.
For dealers, it is imperative to ensure against selling tractors with tampered meter readings. Consumers respect the products that established dealers have to offer. Local dealers remain in business due to the trust gained in the community over the years. Besides the loss of community trust, dealers selling tampered equipment may be subject to sanction by manufacturers, including contract termination.
Dealers must also be careful of the used inventory they are bringing in. Does a used tractor’s hour meter reading match well with the wear to its parts? If not, the hour meter may have been tampered with.
In response to Farm Equipment’s inquiry about laws that apply to hour meter tampering and the level of complaints about this fraudulent practice, the Iowa attorney general’s office indicated they have not found the practice to be a significant problem.
Marc Wallin, an investigator for the office, said he’s not aware of any other states that have an hour meter law. “I believe our office tried to get a law passed back when we were working on the pamphlet (Farm & Construction Machinery Fraud Project, http://www.state.ia.us/government/ag/working_for_farmers/farm_brochures/self_propelled.html), but that was over 12 years ago. I do not get many hour meter complaints these days; probably one or two a year,” he said in an email response.
“It is more difficult to tamper with meters these days because they are digital and have their own serial numbers. Farmers are also more diligent in checking past service records and owners. The few complaints I do get are usually on tractors that come from the south or West Coast where they run year round. Most cases are pursued in private litigation,” Wallin says.