A Right to Repair bill has just been introduced in the state of Maine. Legislative Document (LD) 788, which has been sent to the legislature’s transportation committee, “requires motor vehicle manufacturers to make available to…independent motor vehicle repair facilities diagnostic and repair information and equipment at no more than fair market value, and in a way that does not unfairly favor the manufacturer’s dealers and authorized repair facilities.” This is the second ‘battleground’ state for the Right to Repair (R2R) lobbying effort, and as that effort works its way from state to state, I’m wondering what is the final goal?
National R2R legislation was first proposed in 2004 in response to testimony presented at a U.S. Senate subcommittee two years earlier. Back then, dealerships did indeed have access to service information and tools that were not available to aftermarket shops. No laws were enacted, but the Senate subcommittee succeeded in motivating the interested parties to work things out amongst themselves. Using a framework agreed to by a trade group representing the automotive service community and by a group representing the auto manufacturers, all the OEM service information, tools and training that’s available to authorized dealerships (eventually) became available to aftermarket repair shops at the same (dealership) price. All of it.
Ten years later, most shop owners and techs still don’t know they have equal access, and when R2R lobbyists ask them if they want a law forcing the OEMs to “make available,” they generally agree (how often does a shop owner ask for a new regulation?). It seems that many elected state legislators don’t know about the existing agreement either. Maybe that’s why they seem ready to get involved in legislation that, no doubt, sounds good to voters too.
So the stage is set with ignorance and political opportunity, and the opening act has begun in Maine. Informed by their success in Massachusetts, the R2R lobbying effort is focused, funded and experienced. But no matter what happens in Maine, my question remains: What is the point of codifying a business arrangement into law? What is the ultimate goal of the R2R campaign? As this issue plays out, I urge all shop owners and techs to do your own research, get your information from authoritative sources, and be careful what you ask for.
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