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AIA Canada & other aftermarket groups push ‘right to repair,’ Mass. Data Law could be enforced starting June 1

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Collision Repair | Legal | Repair Operations
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Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada), along with Auto Care Association (ACA) and other aftermarket groups, have launched a “critical global right to repair movement” for access to in-vehicle and telematics. The groups argue that OEMs are prohibiting their access to and limiting consumers’ choice to have their vehicles repaired at independent shops.

Meanwhile, the new Massachusetts attorney general on March 7 made a move in court to request enforcement, beginning June 1, of the state’s Data Access Law that was passed by voters in 2020.

AIA Canada and the other 19 groups that are part of the most recent movement wrote in a March 8 position statement that they’re calling on lawmakers to mandate fair and open competition and consumer choice in the vehicle service and repair industry.

They assert that across the globe, consumers are facing a significant threat to their right to repair their vehicles at the auto repair shop of their choice

“Vehicles are increasingly becoming like cellphones, connected wirelessly at all times,” the groups said in a news release. “These connected vehicles collect thousands of data points on the health of vehicle systems. The automakers then transmit these data to themselves wirelessly, obstructing access to it by independent repair shops.”

The CAR Coalition, which is a proponent of the right to repair movement and whose members include insurers, insurance and aftermarket parts trade associations, and aftermarket parts suppliers, recently announced PartsTrader as the newest supporter of the CAR Coalition efforts.

The coalition has made a clear position that automakers must give access to vehicle data, critical information, software, and tools needed for repair and maintenance, but members of the coalition have also been on record in opposition to legislative initiatives that would require collision shops and insurers to follow OEM repair procedures in order to provide safe and proper repairs — is also pushing a right to repair campaign.

Some of which have actively opposed legislative initiatives that would require collision shops and insurers to follow OEM repair procedures in order to provide safe and proper repairs — is also pushing a right to repair campaign.

The coalition released two research papers last fall written by law professors that support the passage of federal legislation to mandate that OEM repair procedures and parts be more accessible to give consumers the right to repair in both the collision and mechanical repair industries. However, the research shies away from efforts by insurers, often as a cost savings measure, to block reimbursements for repairs made using those procedures.

The papers argue that the issue is OEMs cutting off competition with aftermarket parts manufacturers and sellers by patenting parts and their designs as limiting access to necessary information for repairs.

Going further back into the history of OEM and aftermarket disagreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in 2014 by representatives of OEMs and the aftermarket industry, which was prompted by Massachusetts’ original right-to-repair law. The MOU safeguards independent shops’ access to OEM repair and maintenance information and 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.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) contends that the right to repair movements are unnecessary because the right already exists. In an October 2022 memo, AAI states, “Automakers agree and support numerous initiatives to facilitate seamless independent auto service and repair.”

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

The current right to repair movement led by AIA Canada, similar to others, is also veiled under that term for access to OEM repair procedures; all of which are already accessible, for free from most OEMs, as well as tools and equipment with the goal of consumer safety. The only restrictions some OEMs put on repairers are on their parts which are usually reserved for OEM-certified shops that have proven they have the skills, equipment, and tools to complete repairs properly and safely.

When asked by Repairer Driven News if the groups’ issue is more about access to in-vehicle diagnostics rather than the right to repair via access to OEM procedures and training, AIA Canada said it is “to preserve consumer choice for repair and maintenance, consumers need the ability to give the repair location of their choice direct access to the repair and maintenance data from their vehicles rather than relying on accessing such data through the OEM. Further, OEMs must supply independent repair locations the same data, tools and software that they supply to authorized OEM dealers.”

RDN also asked for examples of repair information that isn’t currently available to independent repairers and is necessary to properly repair vehicles. AIA Canada provided six — some of which appear unique to Canada, and more specific to automotive service and repair, rather than collision repair:
“Example 1: Independent shop needed to replace the engine control module. The shop had the software to program the car, the tools to repair it, and was able to buy what they needed from the OEM. The shop needed access to an immobilizer code which is proprietary to automakers to begin the work. The shop entered their Vehicle Security Professional credentials that authorize them, as a vetted user, to access the information on the OEM’s official site but was blocked because that information is only available to American customers. At this point, vehicle needs to be towed to the dealer to get it started, even though the shop has the proper equipment, credentials and knowledge to carry out the repair.

“Example 2: Vehicle required replacement of alternator. Battery also charged, tested and found to be below specifications, so it was replaced. Shop was required to reset / recode radio and vehicle navigation system due to electronic power disruption to the vehicle systems. Shop was able to get radio recode information, but the vehicle navigation system code was not made available to reset the unit. OE Dealer informed shop that the vehicle would need to have the navigation system recoded at an OE Dealership Service Facility only.

“Example 3: Owner calls tow truck due to vehicle not starting. The tow truck driver can’t find the procedure for putting the vehicle in neutral in the owner’s manual and calls the repair shop to get the information. Repair shop searches for OEM information in their database; however, there is no information available on this subject for this vehicle. The tow truck driver must therefore resolve to “drag” the vehicle on its platform. Once vehicle arrives at the shop, the customer requests a mechanical inspection as planned. However, putting the vehicle in neutral is essential to enter the vehicle in the mechanical workshop before carrying out the check. The customer must return home, leaving her vehicle in the garage for an indefinite period because the verification is delayed until the neutralization procedure is obtained. A laborious search for information, on private discussion forums and dedicated to professional mechanics, allows the shop to discover the neutralization procedure. As the vehicle is already 7 years old, other mechanics have documented and shared their experience. Their mechanical check subsequently revealed a problem with the power supply to the starter, which must be replaced. They have access to the original replacement part; however, there is no OEM repair information except the electrical diagrams. It is difficult for them to produce a written estimate of labor costs without the repair procedure to properly estimate the duration of the repair.

“Example 4: Shop diagnosed that the integrated power module needed to be replaced. Power module is a dealer-only item that requires reprogramming that only dealers can perform because independent shops do not have access to the necessary systems.

“Example 5: In Canada, when a vehicle owner books an appointment for a windshield replacement, the glass technician is often forced to order two, three and sometimes more windshields from the warehouse because there are often between 8-12 possibilities. OEMs have refused to grant access to the windshield part number of each vehicle to the aftermarket sector.

“Example 6: Auto repair shop purchased brake pads but was unable to access the repair information from the manufacturer to complete the repair. The repair shop then gave the customer the brake pads they had purchased and had the car towed to the dealership. The dealership then told the customer that they would not repair the car with aftermarket brake pads, meaning the customer had to pay more money for original equipment manufacturer parts.”

Current activities restricted by OEMs that prohibit independent collision repairers from accessing tools and procedures include advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) calibration equipment and training, according to AIA Canada.

“More and more collision shops have been investing in ADAS calibration equipment and training to improve their cycle times; however, I have run into ADAS calibration information that is not available from certain brands,” AIA Canada Collision Senior Director Stu Klein told RDN. “This means the shop must make an appointment at a dealer which typically leads to longer repair times and a lack of competition when it comes to pricing.”

‘Best Practice Principles’

The position statement includes 10 “Best Practice Principles” that the groups believe lawmakers should consider within legislation:

    1. Equal Access: OEMs should provide “certified independent repairers, on reasonable terms and conditions, the same automotive service and repair information, tools and software that is supplied to authorized dealers/service providers.
    2. Telematics: Now that OBD ports aren’t the only means of access to run vehicle diagnostics, the groups want cyber-secure wireless standardized access to telematics, all repair data including bi-directional controls be legislated;
    3. Pass Thru: OEMs “can’t force repairers to use proprietary tools as a pre-condition to accessing general and security-related service and repair information,” so the groups want them to be required by law to provide all OE tool capabilities and service information to third parties “on fair and reasonable commercial terms in order to further ensure a competitive repair market;”
    4. Subscription Terms: The groups want OEMs to offer subscriptions for no less than by the day and for a month and year (this is already provided);
    5. Fair Market Price: Subscriptions should be based on fair market value depending on costs incurred for the creation, production, and provision of the information;
    6. Real-Time Access: Service and repair information should be provided when new vehicles make it to market and when changes are made (this is already provided);
    7. Accountability, Dispute Resolution and Enforcement: “Information sharing schemes should be established by legislation, include access to dispute resolution and mediation services and should also include a readily accessible enforcement agency that is able to respond quickly and effectively to breaches of the law.  Fines must be graduated and escalate in a range;”
    8. Circumvention: Laws should anticipate that OEMs will find loopholes, such as copyrighting materials, to avoid providing information to independent shops, manufacturers, and tool suppliers;
    9. Operationalization: Laws should create infrastructure “to support and enable independent repairers access to vehicle security information that is required for vehicle-specific security-related repairs” with “reasonable standardized systems for vetting technicians for access to key code information” which the groups say has and can be created by regulators “to ensure vehicle security and repair competition; and
    10. Transparency: Require OEMs to publish subscription prices and terms on a common website with any changes published within 48 hours to ensure “regulators are able to see any trends in over-pricing or introducing unnecessary and anti-competitive hurdles.”

“Globally, the automotive aftermarket keeps 1.5 billion vehicles on the road while contributing $1.8 trillion to the global economy,” the release states. “After vehicles exit their warranty period, independent repair shops perform 70% of repairs. Increasingly, automakers are making it more difficult for aftermarket repairers to access vital vehicle diagnostic and repair data – which leaves the customer with limited choices and increased costs to maintain their vehicles.

“Without the convenience and choice of independent parts and repair, especially in urban, suburban, and rural communities, consumers will have limited access to affordable vehicle service and repair. These restrictions can have catastrophic effects on local economies and the well-being and safety of millions that rely on vehicle transportation daily.”

AIA Canada notes that Australia and South Africa have successfully passed right to repair acts. “These countries are a model for similar legislation in Canada that levels the playing field and keeps the consumer at the heart of decision-making across the transportation ecosystem,” Canada AIA said.

Meanwhile, the MOU has also been touted as a model for other industries in the US.

One recent example of access to OEM repair training is Opus IVS’ master class program, happening through April, that offers lessons on Tesla service information and diagnostics and ADAS to diagnostics for Volkswagen and Audi. Opus says the training involves instructions on using OEM-approved solutions as well as alternative methods, including a pure aftermarket approach to ADAS services for repair businesses.

A quick search online shows that Auto Zone, AAMCO, NAPA Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Dorman Products, CarQuest, A1Auto, Federated Auto Parts, Champion Auto Parts, SSF Imported Auto Parts, and General Motors all provide access to OEM parts, tools, and training for free.

Massachusetts and Maine Right to Repair

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition thanked Attorney General Andrea Campbell in a news release for her decision to terminate a non-enforcement stipulation on Wednesday that had been in place since Dec. 3, 2020 — a month after the state’s Data Access Law was passed by voters. If approved by a federal district judge, that means the law will be enforced by Campbell beginning June 1.

“On behalf of all Massachusetts independent repair shops and 4,000 members statewide, we thank Attorney General Campbell for standing with the voters and their right to get their car fixed wherever they choose as automakers increasingly try to create a monopoly in the car repair market,” said Right to Repair Coalition Executive Director Tommy Hickey. “It has been more than two years since Massachusetts voters approved Right to Repair by a 75-25 margin and the Attorney General’s action is a breath of fresh air for consumers and the independent auto repair market. During this delay, the automobile manufacturers have been unfairly steering new customers to their franchised dealerships, and consumers are losing. We urge the federal court to finally rule in this case and appreciate the Attorney General’s action moving forward.”

The non-enforcement stipulation was agreed to by former Attorney General Maura Healey after AAI filed suit against her over the new 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 agreed to withhold enforcement of it because of the pending litigation.

In November, AAI asked U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock to reopen evidence in the case after a right to repair initiative in Maine, supported by the Auto Care Association (ACA), was put forward.

The suit is still pending. On Feb. 22, the parties agreed to a joint stipulation that AAI wouldn’t subpoena ACA, who is not a party of the lawsuit, to testify in court and the state agreed to drop its protective order that sought to bar ACA from testifying. The parties also agreed that ACA’s Aaron Lowe will be available for a fact deposition, limited to only certain topics, on or before March 24 at a time and place that all are satisfied with.

Campbell was sworn into office in January and was put in place of Healey as the defendant in the suit on March 7. The case has been delayed several times over the past two years since it was filed in November 2020.

In her court filing to remove the stipulation, Campbell said she did so in the public interest. “The people of Massachusetts deserve the benefit of the law they
approved more than two years ago. Consumers and independent repair shops deserve to know whether they will receive access to vehicle repair data in the manner provided by the law. Auto manufacturers (“OEMs”) and dealers need to understand their obligations under the law and take action to achieve compliance.”

She also wrote that her duty as the attorney general includes “a specific statutory duty to issue the notice provided for under Section 4 of the Data Access Law — a statutory command approved by 75% of Massachusetts voters over two years ago  —as well as more general statutory and common-law duties to defend and enforce the laws of the Commonwealth.”

AAI declined to comment on Campbell’s decision because of the pending litigation.

In Maine, voters will make a decision on a right to repair referendum. In February, Maine’s Secretary of State Shenna Bellows approved the Maine Right to Repair Coalition’s referendum petition for November’s ballot.

The coalition filed an application for a citizens initiative and a draft of proposed legislation with the Secretary of State’s Office in August. 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 Maine legislation calls for the creation of a “standardized access platform” for data generated, collected, and transmitted by vehicles.


Featured image: South_agency/iStock

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