Haven’t we been here before? That may be what you’re thinking – as I was – when you read about the latest “right to repair” initiative petition (Question 1) on the Massachusetts ballot in November.
And indeed, we have been here before. Just to review:
- In 2012, Question #1 “Right to Repair” was passed by Massachusetts voters by an overwhelming majority of 87.7% to 12.3%. The ballot question essentially required that vehicle manufacturers to give independent repair shops the right to obtain diagnostic and repair information electronically on a subscription basis for no more than fair market value.
- At the same time the Legislature was working on a compromise bill, which they approved in Chapter 241 of the Acts of 2012, and which enacted a new Chapter 93J into the General Laws.
- Subsequently, after more negotiation, the Legislature enacted a second compromise via Chapter 165 of the Acts of 2013, which repealed Chapter 93J and replaced it with a new Chapter 93K.
And yet, here we are with another ballot question on right to repair.
The fight this time seems to be largely about vehicle telematics, and a requirement that (starting in 2022) manufacturers of motor vehicles equip vehicles that use telematics systems with a standardized open access data platform.
The opponents of Question #1 claim that the proponents of the question – many of whom (to be fair) are not little independent repair shops but larger chains – want to be able to use this data to use for advertising. They’ve also run a scare campaign claiming that the information could be used by stalkers to come after car owners, especially female car owners.
So, I would observe primarily that any information that independent repair shops could get is information that dealerships already have. The precedent has already been set. If it’s dangerous information for the employees of independent repair shops to have, then it’s also dangerous information for the employees of dealerships to have. You can’t have it both ways.
Next, I simply object to the scare campaign that the opponents of Question #1 have run. I think it’s unethical.
Finally, I also think that, just as a matter of principle, consumers should have a right to the same information about their own cars that dealerships should have.
|For these reasons I recommend voting “Yes” on Question #1|
 The information had to include the same content, and be in the same form and accessible in the same manner as was already provided to the manufacturer’s dealers and authorized repair facilities.
 That compromise bill essentially overrode the provisions of the initiative petition, even though it retained the general outline of the initiative. This is the same thing that happened with respect to the recreational marihuana initiative petition.
 Really, it would have been better if they had simply made amendments to Chapter 93J, since the differences between the two chapters are largely technical and grammatical.
 In the proposal telematics systems are those that “collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server.” Vehicle telematics are more traditionally associated with the use of GPS systems in vehicles – like connecting with Google maps through your cell phone – but in this case it seems to involve only mechanical data that can be transmitted wirelessly.
 Maybe this is true, maybe it’s not true. I don’t really know, and it doesn’t matter that much to me, because my data is already all over social media and being bought and sold at will, so what does one more instance of this matter.
 And let’s hope this is the last time we have to address “right to repair” in an initiative petition.