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Massachusetts Passes Right To Repair Law

Massachusetts Passes Right To Repair Law

Last November, Massachusetts voters voiced their support for the right to repair, passing Ballot Question 1 by a wide margin and preserving 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.

“The Auto Care Association is extremely pleased that Massachusetts voters have overwhelmingly supported passage of Question 1 on this year’s ballot,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO, Auto Care Association. “Approval of Question 1 ensures that car owners can control the mechanical data that is being transmitted by their vehicle through telematics. This referendum also means that despite advances in technology, owners will be able to have their repair data shared directly with their trusted independent shops including NAPA AutoCare Centers.”

In 2012, Massachusetts was the first to pass the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair that required manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair its vehicles. Although that bill wasn’t passed federally, trade organizations like Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (now the Auto Care Association), Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the Association for Global Automakers agreed to meet the requirement in all 50 states.

Telematics data, however, was excluded. The legislation that passed in November 2020 expands the law to include all wireless data as well.

Victory for Car Owners and Independent Repair Shops

It is estimated that by 2022, 87% of new vehicles in the United States will be equipped with wireless technology that transmits vehicle data in real time, according to IHS Markit forecasts. While nearly 9 in 10 consumers think vehicle owners should be able to control who has direct access to their vehicle’s data, currently, data transmitted wirelessly goes only to the automakers, giving them full control over how it is used and who to share it with.

The passage of Ballot Question 1 in Massachusetts changes that. The ballot text states: “Starting with model year 2022, the law would require manufacturers of motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts to equip any such vehicles that use telematics systems—systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server—with a standardized open access data platform. Owners of motor vehicles with telematics systems would get access to mechanical data through a mobile device application. With vehicle owner authorization, independent repair facilities (those not affiliated with a manufacturer) and independent dealerships would be able to retrieve mechanical data from, and send commands to, the vehicle for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.”

With Massachusetts voters approving the ballot question by a 3-to-1 margin, Hanvey said, “Not only is this a clear win for the Right to Repair Coalition that is comprised of thousands of shops throughout the state, it is also a victory for the car owners of the commonwealth who saw through the scare tactics from the manufacturers. The people of Massachusetts have decidedly favored competition in auto repair. Furthermore, we are greatly appreciative of each and every aftermarket company around the country including NAPA and its AutoCare Centers that stepped up in support of this important campaign.”

The Next Step for Right to Repair

The victory is a critical step, but automakers must still act. “While this was a hard fought campaign over many months, it is now our hope that the manufacturers will receive the strong message from consumers for control of their mechanical data and that they will now work toward implementation of Question 1,” said Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, government and regulatory affairs, Auto Care Association. ” The Auto Care Association has worked with cyber security experts to ensure that in-vehicle data can be securely made available to car owners and independent shops.

A globally recognized technical design framework for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), like the Secure Vehicle Interface (SVI), could enable solutions consumers can use to directly access their vehicle data, as well as direct the data to the service provider of their choice. These solutions are based on standards which provide security, privacy, choice and safety, leveling the playing field through secure and standardized data access.

Lowe continued, “We stand ready to provide the manufacturers with any technical assistance necessary for effective and timely implementation of this referendum.”

Even after implementation issues are resolved, the law currently applies only to vehicles sold and operated in Massachusetts. Lowe said, “It is our hope that manufacturers will agree to meet the same Massachusetts requirements in states nationwide. However, if an agreement isn’t reached, the Auto Care Association and Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association are working to have federal legislation on data access introduced. We’re prepared to move this to a national scale. In addition, we’ve heard from a number of other states that have expressed an interest in pursuing this issue locally.”

Know the Issue, Spread the Word

“Amazing technology makes vehicles safer and allows them to communicate with each other,” Hanvey said. “However, with that technology those vehicles are generating terabytes of data. Consumers are very much unaware of where that data is being sent and whether that data is being sold.”

The issue has been well publicized in Massachusetts in anticipation of Ballot Question 1, but across the country consumers aren’t as well educated. In fact, about 71 percent wrongly believe vehicle owners have access to their vehicle data while nearly 90 percent believe vehicle owners should be able to control who has direct access to their data and how it is used.

“The work is not done,” said Hanvey. “It’s important that independent repair shops and automotive parts stores continue to educate consumers about this critical issue and support Right to Repair to ensure consumers in all 50 states have access to and control of valuable data giving them a choice in where to repair their vehicle.

“The independent auto care industry supports 4.7 million employees across America. If vehicle manufacturers are successful in monopolizing vehicle data for their own gain, the livelihood of our industry—and the jobs of its employees—could be at risk.”

Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice. Advocacy Campaign

The Auto Care Association and the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) launched a campaign to protect consumers’ rights to telematics data provided by their vehicles. The Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice.™ initiative was created to engage car owners, policymakers and other stakeholders on car data – what is it, why it matters and its implications for consumer choice. It is also intended to educate as well as activate the aftermarket industry and consumers in the fight for access to and control of vehicle data.

Learn more about the Your Car. Your Data. Your Choice. campaign at www.YourCarYourData.org and sign the petition you’ll find there. The petition urges Congress to give vehicle owners access to and control of the data generated from their own vehicle. Those who sign will be joining nearly 30,000 Americans who agree this issue is urgent—and Congress must act. Additional information is available at www.autocare.org and www.aftermarketsuppliers.org/CarData.

*Update: It should be noted that on November 20th, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation which represents the vehicle manufacturers filed suit in federal court to overturn the ballot question claiming that it is preempted by federal law and cannot be implemented safely and securely. Subsequently, on December 1, the Alliance filed a motion with the court requesting an injunction to stop implementation of the ballot question while the case is decided. The Alliance contends that they have a reasonable chance of success in their lawsuit and that further implementation would cause irreparable harm to the manufacturers. At publication, there was no schedule for when the cases would be heard by the court.

The Facts About Vehicle Telematics

  • There are 290 million vehicles on the road in the United States today.
  • Newer car models generate as much as 25 GB of data per hour according to McKinsey & Company, an American management consulting firm.
  • By 2022, 87 percent of new vehicles will transmit data.
  • Cars record data about performance, location, speeding, braking, biometric data on people in the car, and more.
  • Data generated by new cars is sent directly to auto manufacturers making them data gatekeepers and giving them full control over who has access, how the data is accessed, and how much access costs.
  • Car data can be used for vehicle maintenance and repair but it can also be sold to third-party companies for advertising purposes.
  • Consumers universally opt-in to data collection when purchasing a vehicle; however, they are unable to opt out.

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