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New wireless technologies threaten car owners’ rights to buy parts or get repairs wherever they choose

MA independent repair shops collect 102,000 signatures to again seek protection of their right to repair all cars

Boston—The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition has announced it has turned in 102,000 signatures to ensure an initiative petition to enact a much-needed update to the Commonwealth’s Right to Repair law reaches the 2020 ballot. The coalition — a group of Massachusetts independent repair shops, auto parts stores, trade associations, consumers, and drivers — said a lack of progress on an update to the law in the legislature led them to pursue an initiative petition so that Massachusetts car owners will continue to have access to the repair and diagnostic mechanical information produced by the vehicle they own. 

By 2020, advancements in vehicle technology and increasing restrictions by automakers will result in more than 90 percent of new cars being equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly to vehicle manufacturers, threatening the rights that Massachusetts car consumers enjoy today to choose to get their cars fixed at independent repair shops or do the work themselves. 

“We need to update the Right to Repair law before wireless technologies remove the car owner’s right to get their vehicle repaired at our local, independent shop because the automaker would rather steer them toward one of their more expensive dealers,” said Alan Saks of Dorchester Tire Service. “This is a common-sense reform and we’d love to see the Legislature move forward and fix it so that we don’t have to go to the ballot to protect consumers’ rights to shop around for car repairs.”

The key provision of the initiative is as follows: 

Commencing in model year 2022 and thereafter a manufacturer of motor vehicles sold in the Commonwealth, including heavy duty vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 14,000 pounds, that utilizes a telematics system shall be required to equip such vehicles with an inter-operable, standardized and open access platform across all of the manufacturer’s makes and models. Such platform shall be capable of securely communicating all mechanical data emanating directly from the motor vehicle via direct data connection to the platform. Such platform shall be directly accessible by the owner of the vehicle through a mobile-based application and, upon the authorization of the vehicle owner, all mechanical data shall be directly accessible by an independent repair facility or a class 1 dealer licensed pursuant to section 58 of chapter 140 limited to the time to complete the repair or for a period of time agreed to by the vehicle owner for the purposes of maintaining, diagnosing and repairing the motor vehicle. Access shall include the ability to send commands to in-vehicle components if needed for purposes of maintenance, diagnostics and repair. 

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