Fight for Right to Repair Continues in Massachusetts

August 23, 2023

In 2020, the voters of Massachusetts overwhelmingly approved a law ensuring vehicle owners and their preferred repair shops would have access to their vehicle data. In the three years since 75 percent of voters made their voices clear, the auto manufacturers have been fighting to block the implementation of the law. They have sued. They have dragged their feet in terms of implementation. They bottom line is, they want to be in control, not vehicle owners.

Earlier this year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHSTA) stepped in to say the law could not be implemented even though it was a state, not federal law. There was quick outrage from Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren who demanded to know why the NHSTA was rebuffing the will of voters in their state.

Now, NHSTA has announced it has reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General to implement the law. However, NHSTA’s instructions significantly limit how the law can be implemented, if at all. In a letter to the Massachusetts Attorney General, NHSTA said, “Based on our discussions to date, it appears that the Massachusetts attorney general and NHTSA also share a common understanding that implementing this compliance option with the secure open access platform, as required in the law, is not immediately available. Vehicle manufacturers may require a reasonable period of time to securely develop, test, and implement this technology.”

Enough is enough. After three years, it’s more than past time the will of the voters be recognized and that Massachusetts consumers have access to their vehicle data. Implementation efforts should have been underway over the past three years, but the automakers have prevented any progress.

While it is encouraging that NHTSA has finally agreed that data can be shared safely with car owners, its solution falls short. As CAR Coalition Executive Director Justin Rzepka said in today’s Boston Globe, it is “wholly inadequate” and no substitute for a federal vehicle right-to-repair law. Vehicle owners throughout the country deserve protections that will safeguard their rights and prevent a patchwork of state regulations.

That is why a federal solution like the REPAIR Act (H.R. 906) is needed. This bipartisan legislation will ensure vehicle owners can get the parts, tools and information they need to repair their vehicles. It would also require automakers to give consumers the critical information, software and tools they need to make these repairs. It would also require the NHTSA and the FTC propose new rules to guarantee consumer access to vehicle data and provide cybersecurity.

The people of Massachusetts made it clear they want vehicle right to repair. Powerful interests have been trying to thwart that effort for three years. The CAR Coalition and other right to repair advocates will not stop fighting to consumer rights. This week’s announcement show progress is possible but will be hard fought.