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Group Says Right to Repair Amendment Not Necessary

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Aug. 3, 2020—A revision to Massachusetts’ Right to Repair law is question no. 1 on the ballot for the state’s voters this November.

The revision would include telematics information to be accessible by independent repairers via a standardized platform. The original law, which was finalized in 2013, exempted telematics data from being made accessible to all repairers. That included “remote diagnostics.”

The law could set a precedent, opening the door for other states to adopt similar measures if that standardized platform takes effect in Massachusetts.

Aftermarket and independent repair organizations like the Auto Care Association have been the biggest boosters of the revision, saying that it would put independent shops on an even playing field with dealerships as more vehicle information becomes part of the wireless telematics ecosystem. 

An organization called the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data formed to oppose the measure. Ratchet+Wrench, a sibling publication to ADAPT, interviewed a spokesman from the group.

“Why does Right to Repair need to be changed? You make a law if there’s a problem, you don’t make it based on a hypothetical coming down the road,” says Conor Yunits of the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data.

Yunits says that there is nothing in the current law that prevents auto repair shops from accessing the information that they need. Furthermore, he said that changing the law would give people access to data from consumers that they do not need.

“There is no proof that this [the information requested] is not available to auto repair shops,” Yunits tells Ratchet+Wrench. 


A Contested Issue

The biggest financial backers of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, which campaigns in favor of the ballot question, are the Auto Care Association and the Coalition of Automobile Repair Equality. Both organizations donated $100,000, according to state campaign finance data.

The Right to Repair Coalition also has financial contributions from more than 100 auto shops in the state.

The website for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, which opposes the ballot question, says it's made up of “groups concerned with personal and consumer safety, data privacy, cybersecurity, and domestic violence.”

Campaign finance records show just two organizations that represent automakers: the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which have donated more than $1.6 million in total. Both trade groups formed in early 2020 to create the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

Yunits says that his organization will continue to fight against the ballot question.


What's on the Ballot?

This is the official summary of the proposed ballot question:


This proposed law would require that motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities be provided with expanded access to mechanical data related to vehicle maintenance and repair.

Starting with model year 2022, the proposed law would require manufacturers of motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts to equip any such vehicles that use telematics systems –- systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server –- with a standardized open access data platform. Owners of motor vehicles with telematics systems would get access to mechanical data through a mobile device application. With vehicle owner authorization, independent repair facilities (those not affiliated with a manufacturer) and independent dealerships would be able to retrieve mechanical data from, and send commands to, the vehicle for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.

Under the proposed law, manufacturers would not be allowed to require authorization before owners or repair facilities could access mechanical data stored in a motor vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system, except through an authorization process standardized across all makes and models and administered by an entity unaffiliated with the manufacturer.

The proposed law would require the Attorney General to prepare a notice for prospective motor vehicle owners and lessees explaining telematics systems and the proposed law’s requirements concerning access to the vehicle’s mechanical data. Under the proposed law, dealers would have to provide prospective owners with, and prospective owners would have to acknowledge receipt of, the notice before buying or leasing a vehicle.

Failure to comply with these notice requirements would subject motor vehicle dealers to sanctions by the applicable licensing authority. Motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities could enforce this law through state consumer protection laws and recover civil penalties of the greater of treble damages or $10,000 per violation.

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