Major car manufacturers aren’t giving up on their efforts to stymie Massachusetts’ right to repair legislation. Less than two years after residents in the state voted in favour of updated right to repair laws that would let independent auto repair shops receive telematics data from vehicles, groups representing auto manufacturers are now introducing their own new proposals that would delay the law’s implementation.
If passed, the two new proposals, first viewed by Motherboard, would push back the starting date of Massachusetts’ right to repair law to 2025, three years later than the original 2022 start date. Though supporters of the proposal argue the extra years would give automakers more time to comply with the laws, the efforts were derided by critics like Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition Director Tommy Hickey.
“Massachusetts consumers have spoken, and the law now gives them the right to control their own repair data so that they can get their car fixed where they want,” Hickey told the Gloucester Daily Times. “However, instead of listening to their customers and attempting to comply with the ballot initiative, automakers and dealers filed a baseless, anti-democratic lawsuit.”
For those unaware, Massachusetts’ 2020 law was intended to make it easier for small auto shops to access diagnostic data about vehicles without the need for proprietary tools available only to manufacturers. When the law goes into effect, The Drive notes, it would require any automaker doing business in the state to allow this telematics data to be accessible through a smartphone app.
The auto industry has argued making such tools more widely available could come with cybersecurity and vehicle safety risks, though that line of argument has often come across as more akin to fearmongering than actual concern for consumers’ well-being. (One ad paid for by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation tried to convince viewers a sexual predator could use vehicle data to stalk and prey upon their victims). Industry groups representing carmakers even went as far as to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing the law was unconstitutional. The ruling on that suit has yet to be determined.
Despite these carmakers’ best efforts, the winds appear to be blowing in favour of right-to-repair principles in recent years, and not just for vehicles. Back in October, Microsoft became the first major tech company to stand behind the right to repair by agreeing to make it easier for its customers to independently repair their devices. The company also pleaded to hire an independent consultant to examine the ways increased access to parts could minimise electronic waste. Not long after that, Apple, the long-time Darth Vader of the right to repair movement, unexpectedly announced it would begin selling customers the parts and tools needed to repair iPhones and Macs, something advocates had spent years pushing for.
2021 also saw the introduction of federal right to repair legislation which, if passed, would officially require device manufacturers to provide replacement parts, diagnostic information, repair tools to device owners and third-party repair shops.