Massachusetts legislators are being pressed hard by automakers to delay the implementation of a voter approved right to repair law.
Opposition to the Question 1 initiative, approved overwhelmingly in the 2020 U.S. election, has been vigorous from early on.
The initiative and the legislation springing from it modified the state’s existing right to repair legislation to allow the independent aftermarket repair sector to access wireless vehicle ‘telematics’ data.
A bitter battle preceded the Question 1 approval, a lawsuit still before the U.S. federal court was filed to block it shortly after it’s approval by voters, and automaker representatives are now also pressing regulators to give them more time to comply.
Two proposals heard January 10, 2022 by the Legislature’s Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, backed by the auto industry, would push back the starting date of the law to the 2025 model year, giving auto manufacturers three more years to comply.
This even as efforts continue in federal court to overturn the law.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston by the trade group Alliance for Automobile Innovation says the “data law” is unenforceable because it runs afoul of federal law and the Constitution. The outcome of the lawsuit is pending.
Tommy Hickey, director of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition and Yes on 1 coalition, told the panel that the changes are needed because the existing law — approved by voters in 2013 — unfairly allows car makers to use wireless technology to steer business toward dealerships, cutting out small independent repair shops and driving up costs for consumers.
Automakers argued that the original right to repair law allows for sharing of mechanical data. The companies say the 2020 update allows “unprotected access to vehicle data that goes far beyond what is needed to repair a vehicle.”
The legal challenge revisits many of the arguments made against the referendum in the campaign, including that it risks safety and compromises personal data.
The lawsuit also claims the referendum “sets an impossible task” for updating car computer systems that could prevent automakers from selling vehicles in Massachusetts.
According to media reports, spending on Question 1 broke records, with committees on either side pouring nearly $50 million USD into TV and digital advertising.
While opponents of the measure out-spent supporters, the question still passed by a large margin.