A Right to Repair bill specifically directed at the U.S. automotive aftermarket sector has been introduced by an Illinois congressman.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) introduced the ‘Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act.” early Thursday, February 3, 2022.
The legislation (H.R. 6570) “will ensure the preservation of consumer choice, a fair marketplace, and the continued safe operation of the nation’s 288 million registered passenger and commercial motor vehicles, 70% of which are maintained by independent repair facilities.”
“Americans should not be forced to bring their cars to more costly and inconvenient dealerships for repairs when independent auto repair shops are often cheaper and far more accessible,” said Rep. Rush. “But as cars become more advanced, manufacturers are getting sole access to important vehicle data while independent repair shops are increasingly locked out. The status quo for auto repair is not tenable, and it is getting worse. If the monopoly on vehicle repair data continues, it would affect nearly 860,000 blue-collar workers and 274,000 service facilities.”
“The lack of meaningful consumer choice in the repair market harms low-income Americans and those in underserved communities most,” Rush continued. “A single mother who relies on her vehicle to go to work and get her kids to school can’t afford to wait days or weeks to have her car repaired at a dealership that is hours away and more expensive than the auto shop around the corner. That is why I am proud to be introducing the first federal Right to Repair legislation for the auto sector. The REPAIR Act is commonsense, necessary legislation that will end manufacturers’ monopoly on vehicle repair and maintenance and allow Americans the freedom to choose where to repair their vehicles.”
By way of a 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), vehicle owners and technicians are supposed to have the same access to information, tools, and software that car companies make available to their franchised dealers. However, as cars become more technologically advanced, vehicle data is increasingly being transmitted wirelessly and sent only to vehicle manufacturers, who then have the ability to determine who can access the data and at what cost. Independent repair shops — which are cheaper than dealerships and preferred by the vast majority of car owners — are effectively locked out.
The move was applauded by industry groups including The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), Auto Care Association, CAR (Consumer Access to Repair) Coalition, and Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
The REPAIR Act will, as it is being called, will:
- Preserve consumer access to high quality and affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and their repairers of choice have access to necessary repair and maintenance tools and data as vehicles continue to become more advanced.
- Ensure access to critical repair tools and information. All tools and equipment; wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data; and access to on-board diagnostic and telematic systems needed to repair a vehicle must be made available to the independent repair industry.
- Ensure cybersecurity by allowing vehicle manufacturers to secure vehicle-generated data and requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop standards for how vehicle generated data necessary for repair can be accessed securely.
- Provide transparency for consumers by requiring vehicle owners be informed that they can choose where and how to get their vehicle repaired.
- Create a stakeholder advisory committee and providing them with the statutory authority to provide recommendations to the FTC on how to address emerging barriers to vehicle repair and maintenance.
- Provide ongoing enforcement by establishing a process for consumers and independent repair facilities to file complaints with the FTC regarding alleged violations of the requirements in the bill and a requirement that the FTC act within five months of a claim.
“Today is one of the most memorable and important days in the history of the aftermarket. The REPAIR Act will help guarantee consumers’ rights and the ability of the industry to ensure their vehicles operate safely,” commented Paul McCarthy, president and CEO of AASA.
“From the repair shop to the board room, this effort has been fueled by the people of the aftermarket, and we couldn’t be prouder of that alignment behind this important legislation. This effort supports principles of competition, consumer choice, and safety that we believe will benefit the whole automotive industry in the long run. We look forward to working with Representative Rush and our industry colleagues towards passage of this critical legislation.”
“Ensuring consumer choice while retaining a free and competitive market across the vehicle lifecycle is at the heart of this legislation,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association.
“As personal transportation has become more essential than ever, we need to make sure that 288 million American motorists have access to affordable, safe and secure repairs for their vehicles. The tenets of this bill are principles-based, balanced, and address concerns shared across the automotive industry. Passage of this bill will keep consumers at the wheel while preserving an industry that contributes 4.4 million U.S. jobs and 2% GDP.”
“The CAR Coalition is proud to support the REPAIR Act,” Executive Director Justin Rzepka said. “According to a recent YouGov poll, 93 percent of respondents agreed that they should have the right to choose where and by whom their vehicle is repaired. The REPAIR Act will ensure consumers will have more, not fewer choices, when they need a repair shop. They will also have access to the data they need to make sure the repair is done safely. This is important, consumer-first legislation and we look forward to working with lawmakers and industry partners to pass it.”
“Free and fair competition is a core value in the United States,” said Daniel Ingber, Vice President of Government and Legal Affairs, SEMA. “Protecting a consumer’s personal choice when purchasing, servicing, repairing, or modifying a motor vehicle is what the REPAIR Act will deliver. As technology continues to reshape the automotive landscape for vehicle safety, convenience and comfort, Congress needs to enact this important legislation. The REPAIR Act is essential to protecting access to vehicle systems, tools and information necessary for independent repair and modification services for millions of consumers.”
“Americans should not be forced to bring their cars to more costly and inconvenient dealerships for repairs when independent auto repair shops are often cheaper and far more accessible,” said Rep. Rush.
“But as cars become more advanced, manufacturers are getting sole access to important vehicle data while independent repair shops are increasingly locked out. The status quo for auto repair is not tenable, and it is getting worse. If the monopoly on vehicle repair data continues, it would affect nearly 860,000 blue-collar workers and 274,000 service facilities.”
The bill is introduced on the heels of three pivotal moments for consumer choice in repair. In November 2020, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voiced their support for Ballot Question 1 (also known as Right to Repair) with 75% of the vote, which preserves their right as vehicle owners to have access to and control of their vehicle’s mechanical data necessary for service and repair at the shops of their choice.
In May 2021, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released its Nixing the Fix report which highlighted barriers that vehicle manufacturers have instituted to squash a consumer’s right to repair. The FTC strongly supports expanding consumer repair options and found “scant evidence” for repair restrictions imposed by original equipment manufacturers.
And in July 2021, U.S. President Bident issued the “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” executive order which encouraged the FTC to address anti-competitive repair restrictions.