Repairer Driven News
« Back « PREV Article  |  NEXT Article »

Maine committee wants R2R regulatory body, standardized platform nixed

By on
Collision Repair | Legal
Share This:

Maine’s Joint Standing Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business voted 7-1 Tuesday to recommend that the legislature eliminate the requirement in a new “right to repair” law for a standardized repair information platform.

The work session discussion centered on replacing LD 1911 as introduced and amending current law, as approved under LD 1677. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation (Auto Innovators) drafted LD 1911 shortly after LD 1677 as a competing bill. LD 1677 was passed by voter referendum after more than 84% of voters approved a right to repair (R2R) referendum in November that began as a petition circulated by the Maine Right to Repair Coalition.

Now that the bill is law, legislators are considering the implications and complexities of it that some have said weren’t presented to voters.

Rep. Amanda Collamore brought the amendment that the committee approved. If approved by the full legislature, it would revise current law to do away with the creation of a non-governmental independent entity that is to be designated by Maine’s attorney general under LD 1677 to manage cyber-secure access to vehicle-generated data. It also mandates the creation of a standardized bidirectional data access platform, which Collamore’s amendment would also remove from law.

Another state passed similar legislation on referendum. The Data Access Law, passed in Massachusetts in 2020, is the basis of a lawsuit filed against the state AG by Auto Innovators.

Auto Innovators says LD 1677 would allow open third-party bidirectional access to telematics-equipped vehicles and claims independent repairers and vehicle owners already have access to necessary to repair vehicles. The Maine Right to Repair Coalition believes the opposite and helped draft and pass LD 1677.

New language, which hasn’t been filed in written form yet, would also stipulate what “telematics” means — a topic that was discussed at length during a January work session of the committee. The committee asked at that time how the current law impacts interstate commerce laws and whether telematics access would include what a vehicle is doing in real time, or a record of what a vehicle has done in certain conditions.

When Auto Innovators State Affairs Vice President Wayne Weikel was called up by the committee to answer questions during the Feb. 13 work session, he said, “Not a single repair has been identified that you need telematic access to fix. Any information necessary to complete a repair is available on the vehicle as it always has been.”

The amendment, he added, “makes it clear that if there was a situation where the information was not available on the vehicle, and that telematics information is provided to a dealer… [is] necessary for repair, and not otherwise available, then it has to be made available to the independent repairer. This was a loophole that we closed in 2012.”

Auto Innovators, and other trade groups, have long contended that “right to repair” is already available to independent repairers via a 2014 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the aftermarket and OEMs for independent repairers to have the same access to OEM repair information and tools as dealers.

Regarding legislation language, Weikel clarified to the committee that certified repair networks are mostly independent shops, not only dealer-affiliated. Certified repair shops have gone through training programs and earned special OEM certifications so law should be written to include both collision and mechanical dealer-affiliated and independent certified shops, he said.

Rep. Bruce White (D-District 65), LD 1911 sponsor, noted during the work session that, while he believes the “will of the people” is important to carry out, many referendums that are approved by voters come back to the legislature for corrections or clarifications to avoid litigation.

Collamore responded that she intends for her amendment to follow the will of voters without spending millions on potential litigation. She said she wants residents to have the right to repair their vehicles “in a way that doesn’t harm the people of Maine,” and without their data being accessed.

Rep. Daniel Sayre (D-District 135) called the amendment “an absolute wholesale change to what the people supported.”

“If you take away the independent entity and you take away the interoperable platform, you don’t have [an] effective right to repair on anything that requires access to diagnostic and repair information that’s kept in a telematics system,” he said. “You can still do a brake job, but anything that throws a code — we’re taking the entire game away by taking these pieces away. Saying that this is still right to repair is kind of like saying it’s still basketball [when] you don’t have a basketball and you don’t have two hoops but you can still play.”

Sayre added that an independent regulatory entity and standardized platform are “absolutely essential to providing access to an independent repair shop to do repairs on the same level playing field as an affiliated dealer repair shop.”

“Failing the people of Maine by failing to implement the bill as designed is implementing a huge tax on the households of Maine,” he said, in reference to a comment he made that, on average, Mainers pay 40% more for dealer repairs.

Committee Chair Sen. Chip Curry (D-District 11) said he wants to like the law, especially since the best part of it is anyone can work on his car, but he can’t get on board with the creation of an independent entity when none of the listed types of members include those versed in consumer protection and privacy laws.

“I feel like the people of Maine are being asked to referee a fight between the manufacturers and the independent auto parts dealers,” he said. “We’re asking a non-governmental entity to be regulators.”

Collamore said the entity wasn’t part of the ballot question, and voters likely also didn’t know that the standardized platform mentioned doesn’t already exist.

The ballot question was: “An Act Regarding Automotive Right to Repair. Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities?”

While the new law mandates the platform be up and running by Jan. 5, 2025, Collamore said research and development would take seven to 10 years and warrant costs the state can’t pay. It should also be a nationwide platform — not only in Maine, and created at the state level. If a platform is necessary, a research entity could be asked to look into it and promote the results to the automotive industry, she said.

Rep. Tiffany Roberts (D-District 149) said she was in full support of taking independent entity and platform requirements out of the bill

“Neither has been done before,” she said. “Neither has been proven. They’ve only been proven to cause litigation so I fail to see how that’s the answer.”

Tommy Hickey, Maine Automotive Right to Repair Committee director and lobbyist, was called by the committee to answer questions about how the platform could be implemented.

He said he’s working with the state’s attorney general on how standards available today could be used to create a platform, which he said can’t exist without OEMs allowing access to their platforms.

Following the work session, Weikel shared with Repairer Driven News that he thought the committee led a very constructive and thoughtful discussion.

“It’s clear the committee takes seriously its role [in] advancing the interests of Mainers and is considering some necessary changes, especially around government control of customer data and vehicle cybersecurity,” he said. “That would be a positive development and would preserve the most important provisions [of the referendum] that guarantee independent auto repairers in Maine all the information and tools necessary to repair a vehicle.”


Featured image: Vehicle data illustration. (Credit: metamorworks/iStock)

More information

Two organizations petition FTC for standardized ‘right to repair’

Share This: