By: Nate Gilmore

 

In early February, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-ILL) introduced a bill “[t]o ensure customers have access to data relating to their motor vehicles, critical repair information, and tools, and to provide them choices for the maintenance, service, and repair of their motor vehicles, and for other purposes.”[1] The Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act is a response to the growing difficulties consumers face when choosing whoever they want to fix their cars.[2]

70% of all registered vehicles in the United States choose independent auto repair shops over car dealerships.[3] As car technology advances, however, automakers have been restricting access to vehicle data relating to repairs and maintenance for consumers and independent repair shops.[4] But why restrict customers from going to independent repair shops? These restrictions allow automakers to monopolize and charge more money for repairs! Consumers spend an average of 36% more on repairs at dealerships than at independent shops.[5] With 95% of new cars having wireless data by 2030, a cause for concern arises with dealerships hogging the ability to work on high-tech cars.[6]

The REPAIR Act will update a 2014 “Memorandum of Understanding” between automakers and technicians, which required the former to make data available through a physical connection to the vehicle.[7] This agreement, however, left open a loophole for automakers to restrict access to wirelessly transmitted digital data.[8] This wireless data is growing increasingly popular and standard in almost all cars.[9] The REPAIR Act is aimed, in part, to fill this gap and require automakers to share this crucial and valuable information with independent repair shops to allow them to access diagnostic and wireless data systems needed to make proper repairs and adjustments to vehicles.[10] The REPAIR Act will also provide consumers the transparency required to have full freedom of choice when selecting an auto repair shop.[11]

A similar bill passed last year in Massachusetts but has been tied up in litigation ever since its creation.[12] The Massachusetts “Right to Repair” bill requires cars with wireless data systems to install a standardized platform that consumers and independent repair shops can access.[13] While 74% of Massachusetts voters sided with the bill, automakers acted quickly to block the bill.[14] The suit, brought by a group of 20 automakers entitled the “Alliance for Automotive Innovation,” states that allowing consumers and independent repair shops access to this wireless data exposes everyone to cybersecurity concerns.[15] Whether automakers’ concerns fall within cyber security or losing profits from their repair services, it is clear that consumers and independent repair shops are ready for change.

Fair competition has long been a linchpin in the United States economy. The REPAIR Act, if passed, would provide car owners and independent repair shops the opportunity to partake in this idea of a fair marketplace and require automakers to share this wireless data.

 

[1] H.R. 6570, 117th Cong. (2022).

[2] See Press Release, Rush Introduces REPAIR Act to Ensure Equal Access to Auto Repair Data for Independent Repair Shops and Preserve Consumer Choice (Feb. 3, 2022), https://rush.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rush-introduces-repair-act-ensure-equal-access-auto-repair-data.

[3] Id.

[4] H.R. 6570.

[5] Press Release, Rush Introduces REPAIR Act to Ensure Equal Access to Auto Repair Data for Independent Repair Shops and Preserve Consumer Choice (Feb. 3, 2022), https://rush.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rush-introduces-repair-act-ensure-equal-access-auto-repair-data.

[6] Id.

[7] Hiawatha Bray, Bill in Congress Echoes Mass. Automotive Right-to-Repair Plan, Boston Globe (Feb. 4, 2022, 12:50 PM), https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/02/04/business/bill-congress-echoes-mass-automotive-right-to-repair-plan/.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] H.R. 6570.

[11] Id.

[12] Kathryn M. Rattigan, Litigation Over Massachusetts “Right to Repair” Law Continues, Nat’l L. Rev. (Feb. 10, 2022), https://www.natlawreview.com/article/litigation-over-massachusetts-right-to-repair-law-continues.

[13] Id.

[14] Matt O’Brien, Subaru Buyers Caught in Right-to-Repair Fight Over its Cars in Massachusetts, WBUR (Feb. 23, 2022), https://www.wbur.org/news/2022/02/23/subaru-right-to-repair-fight-cars.

[15] Kandra Hill, Automakers Fight Against ‘Right to Repair’ Law, TireReview (June 24, 2021), https://www.tirereview.com/automakers-fight-against-massachusetts-right-to-repair-law/.

Image source: https://www.mecum.com/lots/FL0120-405882/1967-ford-mustang-gt-fastback/

 

 

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