Massachusetts Committee Holds Hearing on Right To Repair Act, Pro-Consumer/Small Business Voices Testify in Support of Bill
06.28.07, 7:23 PM ET

Bill Opponents Show Concern That Individuals Would Have Access To Their Own Security Information, Says CARE ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Massachusetts consumers had their voices heard in the first hearing held on HB 296, The Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, on June 26, 2007," stated Stan Morin of New England Tire, one of the many Massachusetts witnesses to testify in support of the legislation in the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Licensure.

"House Bill 296 addresses a growing concern among Massachusetts state legislators who have heard constituents' complaints about the inability of the independent repair industry to fully and completely repair their vehicles due to the computer repair information lock-outs by the car companies. They don't have a choice in auto repair shops because they're told to return to the car dealerships. Consumers want to spend their income the way they choose. I want to have the freedom of choice on where and how to spend my disposable income," continued Morin.

Vehicles that are 1994 and newer (and some earlier models) are equipped with computers that control the repair information on vital systems, among them: ignition systems, including ignition keys, air bags, brakes, steering mechanisms, tire pressure, oil changes, batteries, climate control, check engine and dome lights, fuel injection, transmissions, most electronics and more. The only sure way for motorists to have these systems repaired and parts replaced is to return to the car dealerships.

This has created a safety hazard for those who need immediate repairs but may not be near the appropriate car dealership, hurts all motorists, especially low and fixed income, restricts free-market competition and hurts the environment (the more vehicles that can be repaired at the maximum number of locations, the cleaner the vehicles run thus the cleaner the air).

The car companies testified that the Right to Repair Act is unnecessary because all of the repair information has been made available to the independents. However, several of the independent repair technicians strongly disagreed with that sentiment, among them, Bill Cahill of BC Auto, who stated, "The car companies and the Automotive Service Association [the only aftermarket association to oppose Right to Repair] have made their intentions perfectly clear. They only want to give the appearance of cooperation with the aftermarket on information access for both repairs and scan tool information."

In agreement with Morin and Cahill was another Massachusetts witness, Glenn Wilder, a third generation owner of a family owned and operated auto repair facility, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Wilder stated that he's an ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified technician who employs an excellent crew of qualified ASE technicians.

"We have the latest diagnostic equipment and information sources. With all of these tools in place, we still run into manufacturer's specific information that we cannot obtain. It's frustrating as a business owner, and unfair to my customers, to have to send these vehicles back to the car dealerships. We need access to this information to continue to offer consumers their right to choose where they get their vehicles serviced," said Wilder.

"Not all witnesses were pro-consumer," stated Sandy Bass-Cors, Executive Director for The Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE). The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) testified that HB 296 is a security risk. An AIAM post-hearing press release stated, "Vehicle security information is carefully controlled to make sure it stays out of the hands of potential thieves, but under HB 296 any individual who owns a car or any auto repair shop technician would have access to this sensitive information."

"This proves, once again, that the car companies don't believe that motoring consumers can or should have their own repair information 'because it's sensitive.' Apparently the car companies believe that consumers aren't trustworthy or intelligent enough to own their information -- which they should have received when they purchased their vehicles. Motorists who are locked out of their vehicles and stranded are concerned about safety. They need and want quick, affordable repairs, not excuses telling them that they aren't capable of owning their own security information," said Bass-Cors.

Massachusetts witnesses in support of The Right to Repair Act, as it's often known, testified that they have heavily invested in diagnostic tools, have searched car company web sites, have exhausted all resources and are still unable to access all of the necessary repair information to completely repair their customers' vehicles.

Massachusetts small business witnesses were: Stan Morin, New England Tire; Glen Wilder, Wilder Brothers; Barry Steinberg, Direct Tire; Jim Melvin, Tire Pros; Bill Cahill, BC Auto; Mark Giammalvo, Sam Giammalvo Auto; and Bob Fields, Victory Technologies.

The original main sponsors of Massachusetts's pro-consumer HB 296 are: Representatives Vincent Pedone, Martin Walsh and Senator Mark Montigny.

The national Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, HR 2694, was reintroduced into Congress on June 12, 2007, by U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns (D-NY). It is again assigned to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Supporters of HR 2694 include: American Automobile Association (AAA); RetireSafe (which represents 400,000 seniors nationwide); National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB); Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP); Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA); 60s Plus Seniors, and National Grange.

SOURCE CARE -0- 06/28/2007 /CONTACT: Sandy Bass-Cors of CARE, +1-800-229-5380/ /Website: / CO: The Coalition for Auto Repair Equality; CARE; Association of International Automobile Manufacturers; AIAM; American Automobile Association; AAA; RetireSafe; National Federation of Independent Business; NFIB; Alliance of Automotive Service Providers; AASP; Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association; AAIA; 60s Plus Seniors; National Grange ST: Massachusetts IN: AUT SU: CSR SBS POL LEG STP NPT RM-AD -- DCTH175 -- 8070 06/28/2007 19:21 EDT