Right to Repair Debate Heating Up Again in Massachusetts - BodyShop Business
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Right to Repair Debate Heating Up Again in Massachusetts

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The Massachusetts Senate is considering Right to Repair legislation again this year, and the most recent bill, S.B. 2268, was recently approved by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. The bill would require auto manufacturers to make available to independent garages and consumers the same repair information and diagnostic tools provided to franchised dealer service centers for a similar price.

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The bill would allow the consumer or independent repair shop the right to take legal action if car manufacturers continue their practice of locking them out of certain repair codes and tools needed to complete repairs.   

Bill sponsor Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) said, “Massachusetts residents ought to have the right to find the repair shop of their choice, and this legislation upholds the concept of free market competition by allowing car owners to exercise that choice. Car dealers will have to compete for business with qualified local repair shops, and that will result in significant cost savings for consumers.”

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The bill is backed by the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition: the Massachusetts Auto Body Association (MABA), Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealer Association (MIADA), AAA, Retailers Association of Massachusetts, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Coalition of Auto Repair Equality (CARE), Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), Consumer Electronics Association and the New England Tire & Service Association.

However, several associations – the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM), Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) and the Automotive Service Association (ASA) – say the legislation is a “solution looking for a problem.”

The group claims that consumer choice is not endangered in the state, and a recent study found that 96 percent of Massachusetts consumers who have their vehicles serviced by independent repairers have never had a problem getting their vehicles repaired.

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But the Right to Repair Coalition says consumers who turn to dealerships for repairs are paying more. An economic impact study released by the group late last year showed that vehicle repairs cost an average 42 percent more at new car dealerships than at independent repair shops.

“By passing The Right to Repair Act, lawmakers will preserve choice and enable their constituents to save significant money without costing the Commonwealth a dime," said coalition spokesperson Art Kinsman.

The group opposing the legislation, however, says that service information Web sites and factory scan tools available to the independent repair community render the legislation unnecessary.

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“The so-called ‘Right to Repair’ Act will not solve the dilemma facing the independent vehicle repairers,” an ASA press release stated. “Instead, repairers must individually decide on a business model appropriate to the vehicles used by customers in their local service areas. That business decision will determine the level of investment in the equipment and technical training necessary to enable the repair of today’s modern vehicles.”

ASA also claims that the bill would make it easier for aftermarket parts companies to copy OEM designs, potentially creating an influx of  “cheap copycat auto parts” into the U.S.

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“The legislation would be extremely harmful to the auto industry by forcing automakers to release intellectual property to aftermarket parts manufacturers,” ASA concluded.

The Right to Repair Coalition, however, maintains that consumers – not parts manufacturers – will be the beneficiaries of the legislation.

“This bill is of dire importance to every consumer who drives, especially with the number of dealerships closing,” said Glenn Wilder, owner of Wilder Brothers American Car Care. “Consumers’ choices should remain their own as far as where they take a car to be repaired.”

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