Why This Massachusetts Law Will Have Huge Implications for Manufacturers Nationwide
What seems like a small change approved by Massachusetts voters to expand access to motor vehicle data could have massive implications for the repair industry nationwide, and for a variety of product manufacturers.
The ballot initiative, approved by 75 percent of the state’s voters, requires car makers to wirelessly share information they collect about a vehicle’s status. That information, known as telematics, can help auto mechanics anticipate and fix problems. The effort is an expansion of a 2012 law that requires automakers to provide the same data to independent repair shops as they do dealerships.
As everything from cars to refrigerators to phones become increasingly computerized, manufacturers have sought to restrict repairs because of safety and intellectual property infringement concerns. As a result, consumers are effectively locked into dealers or original manufacturers for repairs, which some complain is inconvenient and costly because of the lack of competition.
On the surface, the scope of the Massachusetts law is narrow: A technical change for a single industry in a single state. Yet it signals growing interest in so-called right-to-repair laws, which have been introduced in 20 state legislatures as a means for easing some of the restrictions on the broader repair industry. Specifically, the effort asks manufacturers of all stripes to provide equal access to repair manuals, tools, service parts, and software.