More Issues Surface With Right To Repair Law – Does it Pose Cybersecurity Threats?

“I said I was going to rule from the bench,” said U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock at the end of a video conference hearing about Massachusetts’ Right to Repair legislation. “And I have ruled from my chair, so you can get going.”

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation’s (the Alliance), a trade association for the automotive industry, challenge to the recently passed Right to Repair vehicle data law will move forward, according to court documents and a recent video conference hearing. Judge Woodlock recently dismissed a motion made by the state’s Attorney General, Maura Healy, which said additional discovery is needed ahead of a possible bench trial.

Judge Woodlock said that he does not like deciding a preemption case on a record that has not been fully developed. He also told all lawyers associated with the lawsuit, originally filed by the Alliance, to prepare for litigation.

“There are too many unanswered questions for me here,” said Judge Woodlock. “I think the formal position the commonwealth has taken has significant force, but I wouldn’t want to provide a disposition of the case without getting my hands on the merits.”

Healy stated that the new law doesn’t clash with current federal laws, which the Alliance claims does present challenges. According to the Alliance, a vehicle’s GPS, navigation systems and other telematics systems are proprietary and the expanded law creates a cybersecurity risk.

During the conference, the state’s Assistant Attorney General, Robert Toone Jr., weighed in on the proposed state and federal challenges brought up by the Alliance. “The problem is that no existing federal motor vehicle safety standard covers cybersecurity,” Toone said.

Background

In November 2020 Massachusetts residents voted “yes” on the Right to Repair Bill, which centered on preserving vehicle owners’ rights to have access to and control of their vehicle’s mechanical data necessary for service and repair. The approval of Question 1 on the November 2020 ballot ensured that car owners can control the mechanical data that is being transmitted by their vehicle through telematics.  Beginning with vehicles in model year 2022 cars sold in Massachusetts that use the telematics system will have to have an interoperable standardized and open access platform so that the vehicle’s information will have to be shared with an interoperable system.

After the ballot question passed in the fall election The Alliance sued Healey in late November 2020. The Alliance aims to block enforcement of the Right to Repair ballot initiative, which was passed by state voters in the November 2020 election. The state’s Attorney General, Maura Healey, defended the recently passed Right to Repair ballot initiative, in a memorandum of law to support a motion to dismiss, and argued that the state law does not conflict with any federal statutes and that voters already rejected the suit’s claims. Healey also stated that the Alliance’s complaint should be dismissed in its entirety.

The Right to Repair law was scheduled to become effective on December 18, 2020. However, Judge Woodlock, scheduled a nonjury trial for June 14, 2021 and Healey agreed not to take any enforcement action prior to August 1, 2021.

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