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How Right to Repair Effects You

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While the 2020 election will focus on President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden battling it out for the White House on Nov. 3, another battle on this day will be the center of attention for the automotive industry in the Bay State: Right to Repair.

Following the successful 2012 Right to Repair ballot question and the subsequent 2013 law, a problem still lies with a “loophole” in the fine print. 

Joanna Johnson, president of Johnson Policy Associates Inc. and a policy advisor for the Automotive Oil Change Association, has been informing the industry on this issue.

“Everything can get a lot worse, but it’s already a problem, and it will become more of an issue if we don't fight this,” she says.

Ratchet+Wrench held a Q&A with Johnson to answer everything you need to know about the fight in Massachusetts and how it could become a much bigger issue if action isn’t taken.

As Told to Abby Patterson

What is the Right to Repair, exactly?

It’s very similar to Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits OEMs from branding products and services strictly to the vehicles they manufacture and providing access for all repairers in the industry, including on telematics. The point is to prohibit OEMs from branding products and services strictly to the vehicles they manufacture and providing access for all repairers in the industry, including on telematics. If you look at any public meetings on this subject, it’s all about this topic of how to keep the market competitive when manufacturers are trying to completely take over.

If Right to Repair Question on the Massachusetts ballot fails, how will it affect the industry?

Simply put, it can cut down and or eliminate independent businesses all together. We will not have a marketplace if this all comes together. 

I’ve sat in on some meetings on the topic, and all of the major manufacturers have said their end game is to have only “authorized” service providers, meaning these manufacturers will only give authorization to dealers or will limit access to independents, and could even turn it into paid access. It’d be like paying for your internet; you are paying a company to give you access for a certain price depending on where you live. However, what if you had to pay 12 of those payments for internet? Theoretically, manufacturers could charge independents to access each element of a vehicle if they wanted to. The point is, if they retain total control on the telematics side, they can do it any which way they want. It basically turns the car into an ATM, aka it becomes about how manufacturers can extract more money from anyone, including independent operators and consumers.

What actions should operators take?

The stakes are really high right now. At the moment, the big push in Massachusetts is to vote ‘yes’ on Question 1 of the ballot Nov. 3. Voting ‘yes’ in Massachusetts which will give independent operators and consumers access to their vehicle’s data, and while this is only in Massachusetts at the moment, but hopefully, like the first Right to Repair Act passed, we can get a national agreement on this.

What operators can do is promote the Act and get the word out, and continue to work with associations backing this issue, like the Auto Care Association and the AOCA.

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