The issue of a consumer’s “right to repair” was in the news last week with the release of the Federal Trade Commission’s “Nixing the Fix” Report to Congress. Massachusetts has been “ground zero” on the issue with passage of voter initiatives in 2012 and 2020. Consumer advocates are readying for a legal decision in the lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the measure that was supported by a large majority of Massachusetts voters at the ballot box last November.
The 2020 initiative, which would require 2022 model year cars and later that are sold in Massachusetts and utilize a telematics system to have an inter-operable, standardized, and open access platform, has been delayed by a lawsuit brought by the manufacturers groups that campaigned vigorously against the voter initiative. The case, Alliance for Automotive Innovation v. Healey, is scheduled for a bench trial next month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. An issue at trial will be the manufacturer group’s contention that the pending state law is pre-empted by federal statute.
Proponents of the initiative seek to ensure that independent auto shops have access to a vehicle’s telematics system and close what they see as a legal loophole in the 2012 initiative brought about by changing technology. The Auto Glass Safety Council was part of the large coalition supporting the initiative for fear that consumer safety could be jeopardized if auto glass service shops did not have access to a vehicle’s essential telematics information prevalent in late model vehicles.
Tommy Hickey, director of the Right to Repair Coalition in Massachusetts, told glassBYTEs that his group was “very disappointed the manufacturers have chosen profits over customers in bringing the litigation after the initiative was approved by 75% of the voters.” Hickey is confident that the federal court will reject the manufacturers’ argument. That court has conducted extensive discovery in the case and is expected to decide the case by August 1.
Hickey also said that several bills have been introduced in the Massachusetts legislature that would give manufacturers more time to comply, as far out as model year 2025, but that the coalition opposes these measures. He sees many similarities between the present 2020-2021 effort and the successful campaign in 2012-2013, which resulted in the implementation of a model law.
The coalition leader also was encouraged by the FTC report sign and pleased that the federal independent agency “noticed the issue and called out the manufacturers. In a world with computers, tablets and 15 devices in a house people are sick of it.”