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AAI: AGs’ call for federal R2R law based on risky & ‘problematic’ bills, unnecessary effort

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Collision Repair | Legal
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In response to a letter written to Congress by 28 state attorneys general urging passage of “right to repair” legislation, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI) says in the automotive space laws are unnecessary “to achieve what is a fundamental principle — and our mutual goal: guaranteeing consumers
choice when it comes to vehicle repair and the ability to service their vehicle anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”

The AGs’ March 24 letter written to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation brings up and implies support for three pieces of legislation that have been previously introduced but not passed — the Saving Money on Auto Repair Transportation Act (SMART Act) and the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair Act (REPAIR Act).

State AGs that signed the letter include Illinois, Indiana, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The “right to repair” debate has been ongoing in several states with legislation proposed and approved in some states, as well as a court case in Massachusetts. AAI filed suit against former state AG Maura Healy in 2020 regarding alleged compliance and legality issues with a soon-to-be enforced Data Access Law. The law, an extension of the state’s right to repair legislation, was passed overwhelmingly by voter referendum.

Two recent briefs between AAI and newly elected Massachusetts AG Andrea Campbell show obvious contention on the issue, along with Campbell’s decision to terminate a non-enforcement stipulation of the Data Access Law agreed to by Healey.

In December 2022, New York became the first state to legislate the right for owners and independent repairers to have access to digital electronic product diagnostic, repair, and maintenance procedures under the Digital Fair Repair Act. R2R legislation is on the table in Maryland and Maine. R2R has been brought up in Canada as well. Automotive Industries Association of Canada (AIA Canada), along with Auto Care Association (ACA) and 19 other aftermarket groups, recently launched a “critical global right to repair movement” for access to in-vehicle and telematics.

The decision will ultimately be up to Maine voters. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows earlier this year approved the Maine Right to Repair Coalition’s petition for the creation of a “standardized access platform” for data generated, collected, and transmitted by vehicles to be a referendum on this November’s ballot.

The April 27 letter penned by AAI President and CEO John Bozzella is addressed specifically to Maine AG Aaron Frey but AAI noted to news media that it’s meant for all 28 AGs that have voiced support for federal R2R legislation.

“I write regarding your March 24 letter urging Congress to pass several federal right-to-repair measures, including bills ‘targeted at automobiles’ that ensure ‘consumers have choices’ for vehicle repair and small automobile businesses ‘can remain competitive…’ I’m happy to report that in the automotive space, all of those conditions already exist, and these federal efforts are not necessary at this time,” Bozzella wrote.

“Automakers already make available to independent repair businesses all the information needed to diagnose and repair a vehicle. This was settled under a 2014 nationwide agreement, that remains in effect today, guaranteeing to repairers and vehicle owners the same access to repair and diagnostic information as provided to auto dealers. This applies regardless of whether the vehicle is powered by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor.”

Bozzella attached the 2014 MOU to the letter. Calling the legislative effort redundant, he said that, “the scope of data access required under the REPAIR Act – including the precise location of a vehicle that may be operated by multiple individuals, the time of day the vehicle is used, and individuals’ driving behaviors – could also create gaps in vehicles cybersecurity protections and risk driver safety and privacy.”

The SMART Act, he added, is “problematic” because it would decrease the number of years automotive design patents are protected, putting American jobs at risk.

“In fact, by targeting automotive design patents for discriminatory treatment, the legislation may very well violate the WTO-administrated Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement) which requires WTO members to make patent rights available without discrimination as
to the field of technology,” Bozzella wrote.

In a memo, AAI describes automotive right to repair as “the principle that a vehicle owner should have the ability and choice to service their vehicle anytime, anywhere, anyplace,” adding that “Automakers agree and support numerous initiatives for seamless independent auto service and repair.”

A separate memo put out in October 2022 specific to the Maine “telematics ballot initiative” states the proposed legislation “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).”


Featured image credit: Ziga Plahutar/iStock

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