A decade-long battle to require auto manufacturers to release diagnostic and software information as well as tools to auto repair shops and individuals was shot down this past weekend. Also known as the “Right to Repair” bill, the proposed legislation which passed the Massachusetts State Senate July 6th was denied entry to law by the Massachusetts House this past Saturday evening.
Opposition to the bill was largely felt by automakers. They believe the bill would be costly for both dealers and automakers possibly threatening their industry. Auto manufacturers also fear their valued information would fall in the wrong hands allowing other companies to make generics of their specialized and trade-secret parts. Supports of the bill stated it would make lower repair costs available to consumers and allow independent repair shops to compete with the dealers.
The high tensions of the Right to Repair Act may also be seen in its expensive costs. Opposition and proponents have spent a total of $1.3 million on lobbying and advertising this past year in efforts to sway voters.
If this measure were to have passed it would have made Massachusetts the first state to require auto manufacturer’s to release their highly valued informaiton. The Right to Repair coalition plans to bring their best when the legislation meets again next year. If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.
The Right to Repair Bill seems to be stalled in congress as it waits yet another day to be considered by the Massachusetts Senate. The legislature was first introduced to Massachusetts in 2006 proposing to allow independent repair shops unlimited access to major manufacturer’s service techniques, repair codes, and tools. Bills similar to this one have been proposed in eight other states since 2001 however never enacted.
Proponents of the Right To Repair Coalition include consumers along with the auto parts and repair industry. In fact the Right to Repair legislation is funded and lobbied by some of the largest aftermarket auto part retailers. Those supporting the bill argue the computers vehicles rely on are becoming increasingly advanced and making repairs more of a nightmare for fix-it-yourselfers and independent repair shops.They argue its time repair shops and repair part manufacturers should have explicit access to the repair codes, techniques, and tools necessary to repair vehicles. This measure would drive down consumer’s repair costs and grant a greater convenience and choice in choosing repair shops. Supporters of the bill hopes the measure will pass giving the Federal Trade Commission authorization to enforce regulations and encourage competition.
Opposers of the bill believe it would force manufacturers to release confidential trade secrets and other information that would give competitors an unfair advantage. Others believe the Bill’s goal is gain access to automakers information to reproduce parts outsourcing at a lower cost overseas. Those opposed to the bill reference the National Automotive Service Task Force that was formed in 2000 to grant independent repair shops the same access to services and techniques franchised dealers had. The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) created a website: www.nastf to address any questions independent shops have while repairing a vehicle. The largest organization representing independent repair shops, New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association, has told congress this piece of legislature is unnecessary as service information and repair codes are already available.
Here’s the big question… who is right? If you have an opinion on this piece of legislation contact your local congress member via the contact information at link: www.mass.gov/legis/.
Today’s vehicles are becoming more and more complex as computers and technology advance. From a vehicle’s computer to ignition systems, cars as we know them have developed into something we could only dream of 10 or 20 years ago. While these advancements in technology may increase a drivers’ safety, comfort, and auto reliability it has also created an opportunity for auto manufacturers to require basic services and repairs to be completed only by the manufacturer’s dealerships.
Auto dealerships currently own the codes to decipher what is wrong with specific vehicles, leaving independent auto mechanics at a loss as they are unable to repair them without this vital information. The Right to Repair legislation would require exclusive auto manufacturers to share the same codes, data, and tools supplied to their own dealerships with independent mechanics. The passage of this act would allow consumers to choose how and where they service their vehicle, whether it be through an auto dealership or an independent maintenance shop.
Auto manufacturers and dealerships see this legislation as a threat to their lucrative service business. Some of the opposed include: Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, and the Automotive Service Association. Lobbyists opposing this new bill have congregated on Beacon Hill urging the the Joint Committee of Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure to dismiss the bill in their executive meeting today regarding the Right to Repair legislation.
The legislation however has many supporters as well including: AAA, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM), the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association (MIADA). Massachusetts residents struggling with their own economic downturns are looking for a more affordable way to repair their vehicles than visiting dealership service centers. This is not only a local issue, the European Union has passed a Right to Repair and Canada has a piece of similar legislation underway. Keep your eyes open for additional news on the Right to Repair legislation, it very well may effect you or someone you know.