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Massachusetts Bill Aims To Amend ‘Right To Repair’ Law; Fix Loophole

A bill has been introduced in Massachusetts seeking to update the state’s “Right to Repair” law to include telematics. Without the amendment, supporters fear, independent repair shops will eventually have limited or no access to diagnostic and repair information from wireless technology in vehicles.

The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition — a group of independent repair shops, local auto parts stores, consumers, and drivers supporting the bill — argues that, if these shops can’t get direct access to information from cars, then car owners will be steered toward more expensive automaker-authorized repair options.

“Massachusetts voters voted 86 percent in 2012 to require car companies to give access to repair information and diagnostics,” said coalition member Barry Steinberg, owner of Direct Tire in Watertown. “But now, ‘Big Auto’ is using the next generation of wireless technology to get around our law, shut out independent repair shops and cost car owners more money. That’s not what we voted for.”

Data from telematics was excluded from the state’s 2013 law and related nationwide memorandum of understanding, yet a growing amount of data is being generated  through this method, pointed out Aaron Lowe, senior vice president of government affairs for the Auto Care Association.

“More and more, the manufacturer is going to become the gatekeeper for the vehicle,” Lowe said. “They’re all looking at different ways to restrict data, which would be a nightmare for our industry. We want the car owner to be the gatekeeper.”

Model 2018 Chryslers are already requiring authorization for some information once a scan tool is attached, he said.

By 2020, more than 90 percent of new cars will be equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly to vehicle manufacturers, according to the coalition.

“We’ve know this is looming,” said Bill Long, AASA president and executive vice president of MEMA government affairs.

The aftermarket has been busy creating a Secure Vehicle Interface (SVI) to addresses cyber security and data privacy. Motorists and technicians would be able to access a vehicle’s information via a laptop, mobile phone or diagnostic scan tool.

Democratic Reps. Paul McMurtry, Joan Meschino and John Lawn introduced the legislation in Massachusetts, called “An Act to Enhance, Update, and Protect the 2013 Right to Repair Law and Consumer Rights.”

Legislators likely won’t take action on the issue until next year, Lowe said.       — Sarah Hollander

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