In Mass., A Debate Over 'Right To Repair' Law

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill that would give independent auto mechanics access to the same repair data as dealerships. This has been a recurring point of tension between the auto companies and companies that make parts and small repair shops.

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Massachusetts lawmakers are set to vote on a bill involving car repairs. It may sound routine, but there's been furious debate over the proposal that would give independent auto mechanics access to repair data from car dealerships.

NPR's Anthony Brooks has more.

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ANTHONY BROOKS: John Douros, who owns JD Auto Center just outside of Boston, says the proposed law would protect his customers. As cars have become more sophisticated, some repair jobs require access to electronic codes and other high-tech equipment from the dealerships.

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BROOKS: The Right to Repair Law would allow independent mechanics, like Douros, to buy that equipment and information from the dealerships.

Mr. JOHN DOUROS (JD Auto Center): If they don't pass the bill, my customer's going to have to be going to the dealers and pay whatever price they'll charge.

BROOKS: The auto companies oppose the law because they want to protect their turf. They argue it would require them to release proprietary information.

Charles Territo is with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He says the law would provide a trade secret bonanza for the after-market auto parts industry, which is in fact a big supporter of the bill.

Mr. CHARLES TERRITO (Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers): Because they want to find ways to get access to cheaper parts. And the best way to do that is to get access to the information behind those parts and then cheaply manufacture them in places overseas like China.

BROOKS: Which is why state lawmakers like Marty Walsh of Boston oppose the measure.

Representative MARTY WALSH (Democrat, Massachusetts): I'd like to see jobs stay here in the United States of America and I don't think that this should be another industry that we should lose.

BROOKS: But proponents of the law say this is only about protecting consumers.

And Art Kinsman, coordinator of the Mass Right to Repair Coalition, says concerns that the law would violate proprietary information are misplaced.

Mr. ART KINSMAN (Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition): It prohibits any access to trade secrets at all. And we do not want trade secrets. We just want repair information.

BROOKS: A push to pass a national Right to Repair law has dragged on for years without success. If Massachusetts approves the measure, it would be the first state in the nation to do so.

Anthony Brooks, NPR News, Boston.

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