A broad and growing coalition representing more than 1,500 independent automotive repair shops and related industries today filed the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act, legislation that would guarantee equal access to automotive repair information for independent repairers and their customers.
After a strong showing last year in its first legislative effort, the Right to Repair bill now has the support of an impressive array of state organizations representing more than 1,500 independent automotive repairers, service station repair shops, auto body shops, tire dealers, and car dealers. Automobile service related businesses account for more than $6 billion in economic activity and one in ten jobs in Massachusetts.
"In these economic times, many independent automotive repair facilities don’t have the knowledge or tools to continue in this industry. If these businesses were to close, it would do great harm to the Massachusetts’ residents who rely on them for auto repairs and employment," said Roger Montbleau of the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association.
The Right to Repair Act would protect the consumers’ right to have their cars repaired wherever they choose without concern that their chosen shop will not have full access to the needed tools and information to complete the repair. The legislation puts independent repairers on a level competitive playing field with dealer repair shops by requiring car companies to make available the service information and tools needed to work on their highly sophisticated vehicle computers.
“This issue is fundamentally about consumers, the people who own the cars, who drive into independent repairers looking for expert service and a fair price,” said Stan Morin, general manager of New England Tire and a member of the New England Tire & Service Association. “When manufacturers withhold the information that technicians need to repair vehicles, the motoring public is the big loser.”
The newly filed bill, cosponsored by state Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield and state Rep. Garrett J. Bradley, D-Hingham, will now allow vehicle owners or repairers to seek legal redress if they have been denied equal access to information by filing a complaint with the state attorney general’s office. The legislation would also permit the attorney general to bring civil action to enforce the law.
“Many of the businesses we represent in Massachusetts have been in business for generations and are important to the economy of their local community,” said Stephen Regan of the Massachusetts Auto Body Association. “We are still a state built on small, locally-owned businesses that employ local people and support the civic life in our communities.”
The legislation would apply only to cars manufactured in 1994 and later. As a direct result of the economy, more repairers are reporting that their customers are holding onto their cars longer, rather than trading them in for new models, creating greater customer demand for accurate and current diagnostic information. That demand is likely to increase as car manufacturers begin closing down dealerships and their ability to service customers.
“Our dealers spend thousands of dollars every year to update their diagnostic equipment only to discover they are missing critical information,” said Lou Tedeschi of the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association. “They then have to send their customers back to the manufacturers’ dealers for repairs. This not only hurts their business, but also hurts their customers’ wallets. The major manufacturers are operating on our bailout money. There is no bailout for our members or their customers.”
The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition includes the New England Service Station and Automotive Repair Association, the Massachusetts Auto Body Association, the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association and the New England Tire & Service Association. Also supporting the Right to Repair movement in Massachusetts is the National Federation of Independent Business, the Massachusetts Retailers Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.
"The car companies have locked motorists out of owning their own repair information, just as the subprime mortgage collapse locked homeowners out of their homes. It’s time to put motoring consumers back in the drivers’ seats and to let them make their own choices of where, how and by whom to have their vehicles repaired. They own their vehicles–not the car companies." Sandy Bass-Cors, Executive Director, Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE).
Aaron Lowe of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) said “there are more than five million cars registered in Massachusetts that need easily accessible and affordable service. If car manufacturers can dictate where you have your car repaired then you have lost your right to choose. This legislation asks the question, who owns your car?”
For more information about the Right to Repair campaign in Massachusetts and the full text of the Massachusetts Right to Repair legislation please go to massrighttorepair.com