Trade Groups Support in 'Right-to-Repair' Fight

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October 29, 2019—A national automaker group is jumping into the debate over updates to the state’s right-to-repair law, reports the Gloucester Daily Times.

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, which is backed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, was formed in response to a proposal for the 2020 ballot. That proposal would overhaul the 2013 right-to-repair law requiring car manufacturers to share diagnostic and repair information with vehicle owners and independent auto repair shops.

Opponents of the petition frame the fight as consumer privacy issue, stating that the law already accounts for technological advances and doesn’t need updating.

Unlike a ballot fight seven years ago, where auto manufacturers and other opponents of the changes found themselves vastly outspent by a last-minute influx of money from third-party auto repair groups, automakers hope to get their message out early this time.

“We’re getting out there early to spread the word and point out complete falsehoods from the other side that this information is somehow needed to fix vehicles,” said Conor Yunits, a spokesperson for the coalition. “We believe this proposal is a grave threat to consumer privacy that will make personal data available to third-party groups with no safeguards.”

The state’s existing “right to repair” law requires automakers to provide dealers and independent shops access to the computer codes needed to diagnose and repair certain auto problems. However, this law doesn’t include telematics, which uses wireless technology to transmit data about a vehicle to certified dealerships. Because of this, the right-to-repair coalition says the law unfairly allows manufacturers to push business to dealerships instead of independent auto repair shops.

“This is really a fight for Massachusetts consumers,” said Tommy Hickey, the coalition’s director. “Without this information people may lose the choice to bring their car to an independent repair shop.”

The proposed ballot measure includes a provision that, starting with model year 2022, manufacturers selling cars in the state must include an “open-access” platform accessible by the owner, car dealerships, or independent repair shops.

If previous elections are an indicator, money will pour into next year’s ballot campaigns by the millions of dollars, much of it from out-of-state donors.

Backers of the referendum raised and spent more than $2.3 million, which was six times more than opponents of the measure, with a last-minute donation from the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association and other auto parts industry groups. This donation helped sway public opinion in support of the changes, with many of those same groups backing efforts to update the law.

Supporters to a 2020 question still face several hurdles. Among them is gathering signatures of 80,239 registered voters before a Dec. 4 deadline.

Lawmakers could also approve the changes by passing one of several bipartisan proposals to update the right to repair law, but the legislation is languishing in a committee.

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