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Maine coalition moves closer to ‘right to repair’ referendum

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Collision Repair | Legal
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The Maine Right to Repair Coalition has collected more than 70,000 signatures on a petition that supports the right for independent repairers to access the vehicle diagnostic data they need to complete repairs, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The goal is to get a right to repair referendum in front of voters on the November ballot, which requires delivering the signed petition to the Secretary of State’s Office. The Press Herald reports the coalition plans to do that on Thursday.

The coalition filed an application for a citizens initiative and a draft of proposed legislation with the Secretary of State’s Office in August. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows approved the petition in October. Auto repair and parts store operators had 18 months from that time to collect signatures, which had to add up to 10% of the total votes cast in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

As in Massachusetts, the legislation calls for the creation of a “standardized access platform” for data generated, collected, and transmitted by vehicles.

“This would solidify Mainers’ ability to get their auto fixed at their trusted independent car repair shop of choice, or to diagnose their vehicles on their own if they so choose,” the Maine Right to Repair Coalition previously states.

Coalition spokesperson Kate Kahn previously told the Press Herald the “issue is about choice.”

“Consumers want the ability to choose where to take their cars or trucks to be repaired,” she said. “They do not want to be told they can only take their autos to expensive dealerships.”

Repairer Driven News couldn’t reach Kahn for comment on Tuesday by the publication deadline.

Coalition member Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires & Auto Service in Auburn, previously told RDN that the legislation is necessary to make sure that independent repairers have access to wireless data needed for the proper repair and maintenance of vehicles.

He described the legislation as a follow-up to the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by representatives of the OEMs and the aftermarket industry, which was prompted by Massachusetts’ original right-to-repair law. The MOU, which safeguards independent shops’ access to OEM repair and maintenance information, has “generally worked well,” Winkeler said.

On Tuesday, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) pointed RDN to its memo on the issue that states, “Automotive right to repair already exists and always will. …Automakers agree and support numerous initiatives to facilitate seamless independent auto service and repair.”

The 2014 MOU applies to nearly 99% of all cars and light-duty trucks, including internal combustion engine (ICE), battery electric, and hybrid vehicles, sold in the U.S. every year, according to AAI each year.

“This ballot initiative is entirely unnecessary,” AAI states in the memo. “Mainers already can have their car repaired by any repair shop they choose. And all the information needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle today is also already made available to all vehicle repair shops. But the ballot initiative does pose a real cybersecurity and privacy threat to Maine’s drivers.”

AAI warns in the memo that, if passed, the initiative “would force the manufacturer of your vehicle to provide unrestricted remote data access to your car or truck’s computer – even if that data isn’t required to repair the vehicle (and it isn’t).”

AAI provides more information in its right to repair myth vs. fact sheet.

In November 2020, AAI filed suit in Massachusetts after voters approved the Massachusetts Data Access Law, which would grant access to automaker diagnostic and repair information as well as tools to vehicle owners and independent repair facilities. Though the legislation became effective with the 2022 model year, Healey has withheld enforcement of the law as the legal challenge plays out.

The suit is still pending. The most recent development occurred on Jan. 11 when the parties agreed to a joint stipulation and proposed scheduling order for “(a) conducting the additional document discovery ordered by the Court and (b) briefing that motion for a protective

The Auto Care Association (ACA) informed Auto Innovators that it intends “to move for a protective order with respect to the proposed deposition of its representative,” according to the Jan. 11 order. AAI in November asked U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock to reopen evidence in the case after the Maine initiative, supported by ACA, was put forward.


Featured image credit: :andresr/iStock

More information

AAI, AG provide differing interpretations of terms in Massachusetts’ contested ‘right to repair’ law

DePaul & Michigan law professors weigh in on right to repair

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