Various consumers and industry groups had their opinions heard on June 26, 2007 at the first hearing of H.B. 296, the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act. Members of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Licensure heard numerous witnesses who testified in support of the legislation, including AASP MA/RI Immediate Past President Stan Morin of New England Tire and Vice President Bill Cahill of BC Auto.
“House Bill 296 addresses a growing concern among Massachusetts state legislators who have heard constituents’ complaints about the inability of the independent repair industry to fully and completely repair their vehicles due to computer repair information lock-outs by the car companies,” explained Morin. “They don’t have a choice in auto repair shops because they’re told to return to the car dealerships. Consumers want to spend their income the way they choose. I want to have the freedom of choice on where and how to spend my disposable income.”
Testifying witnesses in support of legislation explained that in spite of investing in diagnostic tools, searching car company websites and exhausting all other resources, they were still unable to gain access to all the information that is needed to repair vehicles. However, not all the testimony was in favor of Right to Repair legislation.
“Not all witnesses were pro-consumer,” stated Sandy Bass-Cors, Executive Director for The Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE). The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) testified that HB 296 is a security risk. An AIAM post-hearing press release stated, “Vehicle security information is carefully controlled to make sure it stays out of the hands of potential thieves, but under HB 296 any individual who owns a car or any auto repair shop technician would have access to this sensitive information.”
“The car companies are always stating that the Right to Repair Act is a security issue,” Bass-Cors says. “But the question is, who are they alleging are potential thieves – the car owners who desperately want and need quick, affordable repairs? Or is it the hard-working independent repair shop technician? If safety is truly the goal of the car companies, then they should welcome quick repairs for consumers. It’s extremely insulting to consumers and the independent repair industry to always be accused of having criminal intent.”
Other opponents of HB 296 stated that not only were information access issues intermittent, but that with help of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), even these infrequent instances could be resolved. ASA Mechanical President and chairman of ASA-Colorado, Donny Seyfer, co-owner of Seyfer Automotive in Wheatridge, CO, further testified that such occurrences were isolated and could be addressed with use of the proper tools.
“It amazes me that opponents of HB 296 [OEMs and ASA] hide behind NASTF and they claim there are only isolated incidents,” says Cahill. “Well, if we are all having problems, then they are not isolated.”