Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act


Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act

The Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, sometimes also referred to as Right to Repair, is a name for several related proposed bills in the United States Congress and several state legislatures which would require automobile manufacturers to provide the same information to independent repair shops as they do for dealer shops.

Versions of the bill have generally been supported by independent repair and after-market associations and generally opposed by auto manufacturers, dealerships and consumer rights organizations. Since first introduced at the federal level in 2001, no version of the legislation has become law.

Contents

Background

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required all vehicles built after 1994 to include on-board computer systems to monitor vehicle emissions. The bill also required automakers to provide independent repairers the same emissions service information as provided to franchised new car dealers. As automotive technology advanced, computers came to control the vital systems of every vehicle, including brakes, ignition keys, air bags, steering mechanisms and more.[1] Repairing motor vehicles became a high-tech operation, with computer diagnostic tools replacing a mechanic's observation and experience.[2] These developments eventually made manufacturers the "gatekeepers" of advanced information necessary to repair or supply parts to motor vehicles.[1]

Legislation

The first Right to Repair bill was introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Paul Wellstone and in the House of Representatives by Joe Barton and Edolphus Towns in August 2001. The Senate bill described its goal as ending the "unfair monopoly" of car manufacturers maintaining control over repair information that could result in independent shops turning away car owners due to lack of information.[1]

Among the states where versions of the Right to Repair Act have been introduced is New Jersey, where it was first proposed in 2006. The bill would create a new state agency and require manufacturers to provide diagnostic, service and repair information free to vehicle owners and repair facilities.[2]

Support and Opposition

In addition to support from the American Automobile Association, Right to Repair's primary support is from auto parts retail stores including AutoZone, CARQUEST, Jiffy Lube and NAPA represented by the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality.[3]

Initial opposition was from auto manufacturers who responded that the bill was unnecessary because of its work since 2000 through the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), a cooperative based on a pilot program in Arizona[2] involving sixty-three organizations, including carmakers plus auto service and equipment and tool companies.

Debate

In May 2001 NASTF established a website providing reference for all technicians on obtaining service information and tools from manufacturers. In October 2001, carmakers announced their commitment to correct any remaining gaps by January 2003.[1]

According to a letter from representatives of the ASA, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), in August 2002 a voluntary agreement was reached between for auto manufacturers to provide independent repair shops the same service and training information as franchised dealerships. Reaching a final agreement in September 2002, the Automotive Service Association, the largest and oldest association representing independent repair shops, withdrew its support for the bill.[4] CARE was not party to the agreement.[5]

Consumer Reports has expressed skepticism about the proposed bill, noting that its analysis showed the problem affects a "minuscule 0.2 percent of auto-repair customers." Consumer Reports also noted that the ASA said the NASTF had "mostly filled the information gap." Consumer Reports also argued that releasing "understandably secret details about vehicle security, smart-key codes, and engine immobilizer drives" would be a mistake.[3] The Highway Loss Data Institute also wrote in a letter to Rep. Bart Stupak an expansion of access to information regarding passive antitheft devices, it "would be naive to expect the security of the information to remain uncompromised."[6]

In a letter requested by John Dingell, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce committee, the FTC noted of 6,786 complaints relating to auto parts and repairs it had received between January 1, 1996 and May 16, 2006, only two complaints were relevant and there were "none relating to the inability of consumers or independent auto repair shops to acquire the equipment needed to repair cars."[7]

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Automotive Group Testifies Against Right to Repair Act Bill". Autoparts Report. August 6. 2--2. 
  2. ^ a b c Sturgis, Scott (January 26, 2007). "A Mechanic's Laptop Makes Manual All But Obsolete". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9505E1D6163FF93BA15752C0A9619C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Bogus Solution to high auto-repair costs". ConsumerReports.org (Consumers Union of U.S.). July 12, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Automakers and Independent Repairers Reach Historic Agreement on Service Information" (Press release). Automotive Service Association. 
  5. ^ "Automakers trying for deal on repair info". The Hill. December 20, 2005. http://thehill.com/letters/its-inappropriate-for-congress-to-endorse-religious-traditions-2005-12-20.html. Retrieved March 5, 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Letter to the Honorable Bart Stupak" (Press release). Highway Loss Data Institute. June 28, 2006. 
  7. ^ Deborah Platt, Majoras (June 12, 2006). "Letter to The Honorable John D. Dingell" (PDF). Federal Trade Commission. http://www.collisionweek.com/cw/graphics/2006-0620-FTC-letter.pdf. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 

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