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Thursday, 13 February 2020 22:35

Massachusetts Committee Hears Testimony for House Bill 4122

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On January 13, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure heard House Bill 4122, an update to the state’s current Right to Repair law, designed to better address the needs related to increasing prevalence of telematics in vehicle technology and repairs.

AASP/MA has expressed support for HB4122 as part of its endeavors to improve the collision repair industry in Massachusetts, and Executive Director Lucky Papageorg attended the January hearing to urge legislators to support the measure which, he argued, would grant information to independent shops that could improve cycle times.

House Bill 4122 proposes additional verbiage be inserted into the current Right to Repair law from 2013: “Commencing in model year 2022 and thereafter a manufacturer of motor vehicles sold in the Commonwealth, including heavy duty vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 14,000 pounds, that utilizes a telematics system shall be required to equip such vehicles with an inter-operable, standardized and open access platform across all of the manufacturer’s makes and models. Such platform shall be capable of securely communicating all mechanical data emanating directly from the motor vehicle via direct data connection to the platform. Such platform shall be directly accessible by the owner of the vehicle through a mobile-based application and, upon the authorization of the vehicle owner, all mechanical data shall be directly accessible by an independent repair facility or a class 1 dealer licensed pursuant to section 58 of chapter 140 limited to the time to complete the repair or for a period of time agreed to by the vehicle owner for the purposes of maintaining, diagnosing and repairing the motor vehicle. Access shall include the ability to send commands to in-vehicle components if needed for purposes of maintenance, diagnostics and repair.”

The bill also defines telematics, “any system in a motor vehicle that collects information generated by the operation of the vehicle and transmits such information… utilizing wireless communications to a remote receiving point where it is stored,” as well as mechanical data: “any vehicle-specific data, including telematics system data, generated, store in or transmitted by a motor vehicle used for or otherwise related to the diagnosis, repair or maintenance of the vehicle.”

While addressing the committee, Papageorg explained the vital need for current repair information since shops accept liability for ensuring vehicles perform as intended. He specifically pointed out the need for access to current, up-to-date information to avoid issues such as an accidental electrocution taking place, specifically when dealing with electric vehicles.

Referring to the “tremendous pressure” insurance companies place on collision repair facilities to improve cycle time, Papageorg suggested, “If we had that information readily available to us, we can cut down on that cycle time. Cycle time is paramount to collision repairers. It is critical for them to have timely information readily available at their shops as opposed to them having to send vehicles out and add to the overall expense of the repair and cause delays.”

Papageorg also stressed that shops have the correct tools but still need current information for the vehicles which “changes daily.”

OEM trade groups have taken an opposing stance on House Bill 4122, arguing that independent shops already have access to all necessary information for repairing vehicles. Wayne Weikel, Senior Director of State Government Affairs for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, insisted, “There is a level playing field when it comes to access of repair information, and a level playing field guarantees consumer choice.”

Robert O’Koniewski, Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, agreed, “The current law [from 2013] works fine.”

The committee also examined House Bill 4302, the result of a ballot initiative that’s nearly identical to House Bill 4122, but interested parties are hopeful that the Legislature will address this issue, rather than allowing such a complicated question to go to the ballot.

House Bill 4122 was filed by Representative Paul McMurtry (D – Dedham) who told the committee, “Make no doubt about it. This is a consumer protection bill that closes a loophole on a matter that wasn’t dealt with in 2012 and quite frankly probably wasn’t well understood how reliant our automobiles would become on telematics.”

Committee Co-Chair Representative Tackey Chan (D – Quincy) pointed out that, rather than being a loophole, the exclusion of telematics from the 2012 Right to Repair legislation was a concession made by collision repairers during negotiations.

The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, of which AASP/MA is a member, supports the bill and has also collected over 100,000 signatures to ensure an initiative petition to enact the revised law reaches the 2020 ballot.

Thomas Hickey, the Executive Director of the Right to Repair Coalition, stressed the need for revisions to the Right to Repair law to ensure consumer safety when vehicles are repaired at independent auto body shops. “Cars are becoming computers on wheels. Ninety percent of vehicles have wireless technology that [neither] consumers nor independent repair facilities have access to,” he said. “This has nothing to do with personal information. This is about mechanical information necessary to diagnose, repair and maintain a car. We’re hoping the Legislature take up this bill, but if they don’t, we’re fully prepared to move to the ballot for November 2020.”


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