This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe by John Laidler.
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Owns Direct Tire & Auto Service in Watertown, Norwood, Medway, and Peabody
In the more than 40 years I have owned Direct Tire & Auto Service, we have prided ourselves on our personal customer service. Employees in our four locations are told to treat clients as if they were family members.
But, the livelihoods of our 70 employees are at risk because big car manufacturers want to shut us out of being able to repair your car. That’s what the Right to Repair ballot question is all about.
In 2012 Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved the Right to Repair law. It required car manufacturers to provide access to your car’s mechanical information through a data port we could plug our scanner into, allowing us to diagnose and repair your car.
But, because of advancements in wireless technology, that law is becoming obsolete — as of this year 90 percent of new automobiles and light trucks transmit repair and diagnostic information directly to the dealership, effectively shutting out independent car repair shops like mine.
I believe car manufacturers and dealerships are using this wireless loophole to take away your choice of where to get your vehicle fixed. They want a repair monopoly for their dealerships where you’ll pay more for servicing your car. That’s why the auto manufacturers have plowed $25 million into this campaign.
We can hardly compete with that. Our ballot coalition includes roughly 1,500 local repair shops and parts shops.
The car manufacturers contended in 2012 — just like they are today — that it would be dangerous and unnecessary to give independent shops access to mechanical diagnostics. In my view, they were trying to fool you then and they’re doing it again.
This ballot question is about updating the original law, which allows you to choose where to get your car repaired. It requires manufacturers to equip all 2022 models sold in Massachusetts with a standardized open access platform allowing auto repair shops to see the mechanical data.
The other side warns that by giving auto shops greater wireless access to information on your vehicle, you’d be giving up personal data. But the ballot question specifically limits access to mechanical data only — the same type of data we’ve had access to since 2012.
As the car owner, you technically own that information. If you want to take your car to an independent car shop for repairs, you should be able to.
Vote YES on Question 1.
Spokesperson, Coalition for Safe and Secure Data; Brockton resident
A NO Vote on Question 1 protects Massachusetts Right to Repair, which has been law in Massachusetts since 2013. The law guarantees that local repair shops have access to all the information they need to diagnose and repair vehicles and ensures that consumers can choose where to get their car or truck fixed. The law as written even addresses vehicle telematics systems — the wireless technology at the heart of Question 1 — specifically granting local repair shops the access they need to make repairs to your vehicle. A NO vote on Question 1 makes no changes and protects the existing Right to Repair Law.
However, if Question 1 is adopted by voters in November, any number of potentially dangerous situations could result.
Under Question 1, all vehicles beginning with model year 2022 sold in Massachusetts with a telematics system will be linked to a standardized and open access platform providing remote, real-time, two-way access to cars even when they are not in the shop. There is no conceivable scenario in which this type of access would be necessary to repair a vehicle, but more concerning is that there is nothing in Question 1 that protects cybersecurity, data privacy, or personal safety. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a July letter to legislators, said that Question 1 “would raise substantial safety risks for American families,” while Jane Doe, Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, testified that the proposed changes pose “dangerous safety and privacy concerns for victims of sexual and domestic violence.”
Question 1 is primarily being funded by auto repair industry trade organizations and auto parts chain stores. Commonwealth Magazine recently reported that two of those chains — one based in Tennessee and the other in Missouri — each gave $1 million to the campaign and another based in Maryland gave $500,000.
The Massachusetts Right to Repair law works and ensures that consumers can get their cars fixed wherever they want. Changing the law only increases safety and privacy risks, while doing nothing to improve the repair experience. Protect your privacy, your data, and your safety. Protect the Right to Repair Law and Vote NO on Question 1.