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Wednesday, 23 November 2011 17:21

MA Right to Repair Coalition Secures 2012 Ballot Spot Via Petition

The Right to Repair Coalition announced October 21 that it has collected 106,658 voter signatures, exceeding the 68,911 required for the initiative to appear on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts.

Said Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA): “We are very pleased with the growing support for Right to Repair on both the federal and state levels. The momentum building in Congress, coupled with the groundswell of support from voters in Massachusetts, demonstrates how important Right to Repair is to consumers, especially in a tough economy,” said Schmatz.  “Right to Repair will help alleviate motorists’ financial burden by ensuring a competitive vehicle repair marketplace, allowing car owners to patronize the repair facility of their choice.”

According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the voter initiative would, for the first time, allow consumers to access all of the non-proprietary repair information required to have their vehicles repaired where they choose, at a new car dealership or an independent shop. The proposed law would level the playing field between the big car manufacturers’ dealerships and independent, neighborhood repair facilities, allowing the latter to finally be able to access the same non-proprietary automobile diagnostic and repair information that is currently only available to the manufacturers’ dealers and their new car dealerships.

“It’s time that car owners have the right to get our vehicles repaired wherever we choose,” said Jeff McLeod of Marshfield, one of the signers of the ballot petition. “The growing support for this issue shows how important it is for consumers, especially in a difficult economy.”

Opposition from Automakers and Some Associations
In September, when the Massachusetts Attorney General certified the proposed ballot question, the Association of Global Automakers (formerly the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers) said they were disappointed that the Right to Repair supporters have resorted to circumventing the Massachusetts legislature for passage of their bill.

Association of Global Automakers President and CEO Michael J. Stanton said, “Efforts to promote this legislation have failed numerous times at the federal level, in several states and last year in the Massachusetts legislature. Today, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley certified all four Right to Repair petitions, permitting this legislation to move forward by way of the State’s public ballot initiative process.

“Right to Repair legislation does not benefit the consumer, as proponents suggest, and has proven unnecessary time and again over the last 20 years. Access to the same diagnostic repair information auto manufacturers currently provide to their dealers already exists,” said Stanton. “We regret that advocates of the legislation are using the petition process as a last resort for bill passage after so many failed attempts.”

The ASA continues to oppose Right to Repair legislation, saying adequate consumer protections already exist.

Consumer Groups Generally in Favor
The Right to Repair Coalition includes consumer advocates like AAA and more than 2,000 independent repair shops, small businesses and retailers in communities across Massachusetts.

The proposed Right to Repair law would keep vehicle repairs affordable for consumers by ensuring competition among repair facilities, say proponents. By leveling the playing field and increasing consumer choice, Right to Repair can save families an average of $300-$500 each year, according to an industry study.

A recently released AAA Financial Automotive Repair Survey highlighted that many car owners can’t afford to pay for their repairs, thus, often forgoing having them done. This creates a safety hazard for themselves and others on the road. Right to Repair would help alleviate their financial burden by increasing competition and allowing motorists to choose the less expensive repair.

Support for the ballot question continues to grow across the state as more car owners recognize that this law would directly benefit them by making it easier to access repair information electronically, increasing their safety and convenience in obtaining affordable repairs.

In addition to the rapid signature gathering, the Right to Repair coalition’s Facebook page continues to grow and has over 10,000 supporters.

“Both parties are talking about jobs and the economy. Right to Repair is a jobs and affordability bill during this economic downturn,” said Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE).

“The automotive aftermarket employs nearly five million people nationwide and, unless the Right to Repair Act passes, many of those jobs could be downsized. And, as more Americans choose to keep their vehicles longer for financial reasons, Right to Repair is even more of a fiscal necessity for them.”

Federal Legislation
On the federal level, the Right to Repair Act was introduced into the 112th Congress by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Todd Russell Platts (R-PA), and currently has 40 co-sponsors.

What the Act Says
The Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act claims to protect “motoring consumers from a growing and potentially hazardous vehicle repair monopoly by requiring that vehicle manufacturers provide full access at a reasonable cost to all non-proprietary service information, tools and safety-related bulletins needed to repair motor vehicles. The legislation provides car companies with strong protections for their trade secrets, only requiring them to make available the same diagnostic and repair information they provide their franchised dealers to the independent vehicle repair market.”

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