Conflicting Right to Repair measures may need to be reconciled
Get ready for Right to Repair déjà vu.
Last year, the Bay State passed two versions of a bill requiring automakers to make previously guarded diagnostic and repair information available to independent garages.
The measures conflict on key details, and now advocacy groups are lining up behind dueling bills on how to reconcile the differences.
The confusion began last summer, when the Legislature passed a Right to Repair law, but too late to amend or remove a ballot question that proponents had filed earlier on the same issue. Voters approved that measure, which differs in several areas.
For example, the Legislature’s version of the law gives carmakers until 2018 to comply, but the ballot question set a deadline of 2015.
At least two different reconciliation bills were filed Friday, according to advocates. Both would reaffirm the bill the Legislature passed last year. However, one bill would tweak a section dealing with telematics, a relatively new technology used to collect, monitor and transmit information on how a vehicle is functioning, often with a dealer.
AAA of Southern New England backs this bill. The Legislature’s law gave carmakers too much control over such information, said Lloyd Albert, the AAA branch’s senior vice president for public and government affairs, in a recent editorial board meeting with Wicked Local editors.
“This is personal information that the owner should manage exclusively,” Albert said.
Dan Gage, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said his group favors a bill that would reaffirm, as is, the law the Legislature passed last year, which was widely described as a compromise between carmakers and Right to Repair proponents.
“A deal’s a deal,” Gage said. “Everyone involved needs consistency in this.”
Carmakers are hoping for a decision soon, because 2015 car models already are designed and in pre-production, Gage said.
The automakers’ alliance and AAA representatives plan to meet soon in hopes of reaching common ground, Albert said.
The Legislature’s version of the law allows independent repair shops to obtain telematics data if it is needed to fix a customer’s car and cannot be found with another diagnostic tool, but says the law does not apply to other types of telematics information.
The bill AAA prefers just says any telematics information needed to diagnose or repair a customer’s vehicle will be made available to independent shops, too, and cuts the other language.
AAA is concerned that the Legislature’s wording excludes other types of useful information collected by telematics from being shared, Albert said. For example, such technology can detect if a car’s brake pads need to be replaced, and a dealer or related repair shop could send a customer a coupon to come in for service. That information would not be available to an independent shop as the law is now, Albert said.
This kind of data should be provided directly to car owners, who should be able to decide whether to allow another shop to view or monitor it, he said.
“It arms the consumer with information,” said Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA of Southern New England.
Gage defended the existing language and cautioned that regulators have been cautious dealing with telematics, which involve major privacy concerns and are a complex and still-evolving technology.
“We think that we ought to pass and reconcile what was agreed upon before,” while addressing any new concerns later, Gage said.
While Gage described the Legislature’s law was a compromise between carmakers and advocates, Albert said AAA and some other local groups in the original Right to Repair Coalition were not privy to it while it was being developed.
Upward of 80 percent of vehicles will be manufactured with telematics systems by 2018, Albert said.
(David Riley can be reached at 508-626-4424 or email@example.com.)