A bill introduced to the Massachusetts legislature seeks to broaden access consumers and owners have to their vehicle data.
Rep. Daniel J. Hunt (D-District 13) introduced the bill last week. Called the “Access To Motor Vehicle Data Act,” if passed, it would be added under the same chapter as automotive repair legislation. Part of the automotive repair legislation, called the Data Access Law, was approved in 2020 by a voter referendum as part of the growing “right to repair” movement, which claims vehicle owners and independent repairers don’t have access to information and tools necessary to make proper repairs.
The law requires OEMs to create and implement an onboard, standardized diagnostic system anyone could access with or without OEM permission. The new proposed chapter is seemingly an extension of that.
It defines “access to motor vehicle data” as “direct, in-vehicle, real-time, intelligible and bi-directional accessibility to motor vehicle data, including but not limited to connected vehicle data and access to electronic control units, through a technology-neutral, standards-based, cybersecure interface which may include, but is not limited to, a wired onboard diagnostics port or a wireless connection.”
The interface would enable a vehicle owner or a user authorized by the owner “to redirect data to a third party authorized by the motor vehicle owner or erase any and all data that the motor vehicle owner or user directly or electronically inputs into the motor vehicle.”
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) filed suit against the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office shortly after the 2020 referendum was passed because it claims OEMs can’t safely and consistently comply with the legislation since federal law preempts it. The AG’s Office contends there isn’t any conflict between federal law and the new state law.
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the AG’s Office agreed on a partial solution to the debate — local Bluetooth access to in-vehicle telematics.
The debate over repair information and data access and ownership has spanned nearly a decade across the U.S. Auto Innovators, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, the Automotive Service Association (ASA), and Auto Innovators contend the right for owners and repairers to access OEM information already exists per a 2014 memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Maine is the most recent state to approve R2R on referendum. Voters approved it on Nov. 7 with 84.3% of the vote. The R2R initiative is operated by the Maine Right to Repair Committee and led by lobbyist Tommy Hickey who also led the Massachusetts R2R referendum initiative.
On Nov. 29, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices fined the committee $35,000 for its failure to report six major campaign contributions. Reporting is required in the state for every contribution over $100,000. Dorman Products, one of the companies that contributed, was fined $5,000 for its late reporting. Dorman gave the committee $150,000.
The commission staff recommended fining Genuine Parts Co. (aka NAPA) $10,000 for its late filing notice on its $675,000 contribution. The commission didn’t vote on that fine because a NAPA representative didn’t get to speak at the meeting. They said they would vote at their next meeting.
The R2R Committee reported in-state and out-of-state contributions of $4.92 million and $4.7 million in expenditures, according to campaign finance records up to Oct. 24, 2023. More than $1.3 million was donated by the Coalition for Automotive Repair Equality (CARE) as well as $675,000 each by AutoZone, O’Reilly Auto Parts, and Advance Auto Parts. CARE is a national coalition made up of aftermarket businesses including NAPA, Midas, Carquest, AutoZone, Advance Auto, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, Bridgestone-Firestone, and thousands of independent businesses, according to the coalition’s website. In-state contributions totaled $1,225.
“This is a situation of a mistake,” said Adrianne Fouts, attorney for the Right to Repair Committee. “There was no intent to hide any information or any benefit to doing so. This is an error that is now causing a problem for this committee.”
She added that it was treasurer Jennifer Bonarrigo’s first time working on a Maine-based initiative so even though she tried to find out the requirements and comply, she “did ultimately make some mistakes,” Fouts said.
“The committee takes responsibility for these errors… understanding what the requirements are and complying with those requirements, we fully acknowledge, lies with the committee itself,” she said.
Four companies received late notice from the commission of the requirement. All six were late to the commission.
In a Nov. 28 letter written by Newell A. Augur, attorney and treasurer for Automakers and Repairers for Vehicle Repair Choice, called the proposed reduction in fines against the committee “one of the largest acts of leniency by the Ethics Commission — if not the largest — in the past twenty years.”
The ballot question committee is opposed to the Maine R2R Committee’s referendum.
“Indeed, the Commission would be well-justified to increase the penalty proposed by Commission Staff based upon the extent to which MARTR [Maine Automotive Right to Repair], unwittingly or otherwise, was out of compliance with the major contributor law and the multiple delays in the reporting of required financial information that were a direct result of this non-compliance,” Newell wrote.
The Automakers and Repairers for Vehicle Repair Choice committee reported $116,568 in contributions and $110,909 in expenditures.
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