A Look into the Right to Repair Coalition
Back in 2011, members of the independent auto repair community in Massachusetts joined forces to collect signatures to fight for the right to repair. The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition needed 68,911 signatures by late November to turn into local registrars for consideration for the 2012 ballot as an initiated state statute. After only 19 days, the coalition collected 106,658 voter signatures, which eventually led to the successful ballot vote in 2012, and the official passing of the 2013 Automotive Right to Repair Law in Massachusetts, making it the first state to adopt the law.
When the bill was officially passed back in 2013, 86 percent of Massachusetts voted in favor of the right to repair.
“The voters wanted [the right to repair] because it allows them to shop around for car repairs and save money—it’s common sense,” says Glenn Wilder, co-owner of Wilder Brothers Tire Pros in Scituate, Mass.
Following the successful 2012 Right to Repair ballot and the subsequent 2013 law, Wilder says the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition relaunched last year due to telematics and the advantage that it gave to dealerships. Since it wasn’t prevalent at the time, access to information through telematics was not specified in the law, leading to a loophole that manufacturers took advantage of by providing customer information to their preferred dealerships.
The problem with telematics and one of the reasons that the coalition had to step in was because many, consumers and shop owners alike, are unaware that this is happening.
“The consumer doesn’t know this, but the car is recording the route you take to work, how many times you stop at Starbucks or McDonalds—personal information—and they can sell it to whoever wants to buy it,” says Wilder. “Nobody is doing anything about it because no one knows that it’s being done.”
This sharing and transmitting of information caused a new problem for independent repair shops. Manufacturers are now inputting systems in vehicles that alert customers when they need a service—an oil change for example—but with that comes control of where they direct the customer to.
“They [OEMs] were very smart—they knew telematics were going to play a much bigger role,” Wilder says.
According to the Massachusetts Right to Repair website, more than 90 percent of new cars will transmit real-time repair information wirelessly, and independent repair shops will have limited to no access. This means car owners will be steered toward the dealers for repairs, which takes away their choice on where to get the service done.
For example, if a consumer is driving a vehicle and there is a check engine failure, a message will pop up on the screen and will ask to make an appointment with a certain dealer—and not repair shops like Wilder’s.
Issues like this are why groups like the coalition are so important.
The success of the 2012 ballot was in mainly due to activism and support from the community. More than 1,000 auto repair shops and consumers across the state make up the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition to ask the Legislature and Massachusetts’ Governor to update the law, says Wilder. Now, he says, it’s up to us to make an impact and let our voices be heard once again.
“A lot of people don’t know this is going on,” says Wilder. “Nothing happens without people that can present it to the right people.”
It’s simple to get involved. Wilder says those interested should visit the Repair Association’s advocacy website, click on his or her state and share his or her story.
“The best thing you can do is be vocal about it, let people know that represent you in your area that the problem exists—if they are unaware of it—and if they are aware of it, let them know that it means something to you as a person in that district,” says Wilder.
“We all update our cars, our homes, and our TV’s when we can afford to—why not update our Right to Repair law?”
To learn more on how to be a part of the coalition in your state, visit https://repair.org/stand-up.