Did Joe Biden just push right to repair across the finish line?

by | Jul 15, 2021 | 0 comments

Over the past days and weeks – even years, if you really think about it – right to repair has been gaining momentum. And not just in the aftermarket, and not just in North America.

Andrew Ross
Andrew Ross, publisher and director of content

Pointedly, Australia recently made access to repair information, the foundation of right to repair, law.

But it’s notable that organizations there took their inspiration and gained credibility from the access already in place in the U.S. and other jurisdictions.

Like it or not, what happens south of the border sets the tone for what we can reasonably expect to get into place here in Canada.

When the President of the United States of America says enough is enough, even in our cynical times, it’s hard to imagine a clearer shot across the bow of those who seek to control the service and repair of products that have long since been bought and paid for by the consumer.

Around the globe and across virtually every sector of the economy, the once unopposed claim by makers of everything from cell phones to copiers that they had the sole right to control repairs has eroded. The more consumers know, the less they are willing to put up with this dictum.

And when even a founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, goes on record as saying time’s up on that exclusionary control, well, it’s enough to make people look up from their smartphone (and then back down at its cracked screen), and wonder why it costs so much to repair.

Aftermarket professionals know that there are already significant measures in place that provide a cooperative framework for the independent repair and service community to get the job done. But it’s getting harder and harder every day. And with the advent of wireless vehicle communication and the impending arrival of the connected car, it is concerning that some players are looking at that shift to drive a wedge between consumers and their repairer of choice.

These questionable practices range from lack of access to parts, voiding warranties or even threatening to disable a vehicle remotely for seeking simple repairs from the aftermarket – such as, according to recent media reports, fabricating a fitting for a Tesla battery cooling system rather than replacing the whole battery pack – to making information, tools, and training inaccessible to the aftermarket. In each of these cases, certain factions within the OEM community have sought to use the coming technological change to justify restricting access for consumers seeking aftermarket service for their vehicles.

However, it is clear that this restrictive philosophy is losing favour with both consumers and regulators. In Canada, measures are making their way through our Parliament that are expected to entrench a right-to-repair mandate. You’ve probably seen the “Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice.” petition, and hopefully you signed it. But that’s just the most public face of a multi-pronged initiative, much of it in the halls of Ottawa.

These things do take time, of course, and even the Biden executive order is just a jumping-off point for a lot of work still to be done by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. But it would be a surprise to me if it didn’t have the immediate effect of deflating the automaker group court challenge to the Massachusetts right-to-repair law, and also take the wind out of the sails of other activities intended to exert control over consumers’ right to choose. Clout doesn’t even begin to describe its impact.

Think about it: If you were CEO of a company meeting with the White House (which they do more often than you might realize), would you also want to be fighting a right-to-repair law supported by voters, especially when it is also a personal cause of the President of the United States?

So, while I would not suggest that anyone take their foot off the gas pedal, recent events – capped off by the push from the White House – give me hope that the future holds a continued and now expanded ability for aftermarket professionals to serve the driving public effectively and efficiently well into the future.

The aftermarket just got a big boost. Let’s make the most of it.

Let me know what you think in the comment section, or send me an email at AndrewRoss@IndieGarage.ca


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