Right to Repair compromise passes Mass. Legislature

A last-minute compromise reached between the auto industry and a group of Massachusetts independent vehicle repair shops is expected to head off a costly battle over a ballot question in November. Both the state House and Senate passed the law during the final day of the legislative session. The law is believed to the first of its kind in the nation. New England Public Radio’s Adam Frenier reports.

 

The so-called “Right to Repair” ballot question seeks to have manufacturers who sell vehicles in Massachusetts provide diagnostic codes and other repair information to repair shops through a universal software system. It would be accessible to dealers and independent repair shops. Supporters say it gives consumers better choices for car repair. Opponents say repair shops already have the tools in place to repair most cars. They say the ballot question could change the software used to read information from vehicles. The new software could necessitate design changes in cars, possibly boosting the price of vehicles in Massachusetts. Jeff Gage is a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He says the deal changes some of the requirements of the ballot question while allowing independent shops access to the information.

“We think it’s a structured compromise that gives them what they need, but gives us the protection that we also require for intellectual property and investment, for insuring safety and fuel efficiency components can continue to be incorporated in vehicles, all of those things necessary for us. We’re satisfied that this addresses most of them”

Jeff Andrew owns Tyre Track Automotive Center, a repair shop in Springfield. He says he is pleased the legislature passed the measure.

“In the short term, it will unquestionably allow us to work on more cars and be able to save a dealer trip for our customers in many cases, but certainly not in all cases. And in the long term, I’m not sure, very frankly that it will change things very much at all.”

The question will still appear on the ballot in November. With the agreement in place, both sides are urging voters not to pass it. Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the bill. For New England Public Radio, I’m Adam Frenier.