Voters in Massachusetts will have the opportunity to decide in November whether independent auto service facilities should have access to telematically transmitted vehicle diagnostic and repair data. The Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee recently turned in 24,000 signatures, well above the threshold required to place the issue on the state’s ballot.

In addition, a coalition representing vehicle manufacturers has withdrawn a complaint that right to repair advocates believe was intended to prevent voters from weighing in on the issue, according to the Auto Care Association. The coalition alleged that the Right to Repair Committee violated electronic signature-gathering requirements.

Tommy Hickey, director of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee, says “this is a significant win for owners and independent repair shops because the withdrawal of the car manufacturers’ challenge means we have been cleared to officially be on the November ballot. We have thousands of consumers and independent shops alike who have fought for an open repair market now and into the future, and now the people of Massachusetts can once again vote on this issue. The ballot initiative will update the Right to Repair law to cover technological advancements” that were not covered in past Right to Repair legislation “so that consumers can now and tomorrow choose where to get their car repaired and allow for independent repair shops to work in a competitive and robust market.”

In a late-2019 interview with MTD, Aaron Lowe, senior vice preisdent of regulatory and government affairs for the Auto Care Association, said that access to diagnostic and repair data is “probably the most significant issue facing our industry.” According to Auto Care Association research, 87% of new cars in the United States will have the ability to transmit diagnostic and repair data telematically.

If original equipment vehicle manufacturers succeed in blocking or limiting independent repair facilities’ access to data, “shops will need to go to the vehicle manufacturers’ cloud in order to obtain access” to information that they currently obtain directly from vehicle OBD systems, said Lowe. “Manufacturers will determie the terms and amount of data available to the independent car owners and their designated repair shop, despite the fact the consumer paid for the car.”

If Right to Repair legislation is successful in Massachusetts, Lowe said he hoped that “Congress would take action to enact a national requirement, or alternately, we would reach an agreement with the vehicle manufacturers on a nationwide roll-out. It is important for independent tire dealers to make sure their legislators are aware of the data access issue and how it might impact competition in the (auto) repair industry.”

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