BOSTON -- A federal judge has postponed a decision on a lawsuit filed by automakers represented by the Alliance for Automotive Innovation over updates to Massachusetts' right-to-repair law.
The alliance filed the federal lawsuit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in November 2020 after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that revised and expanded the state's existing law.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock, in a court filing, cited "unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances" as a reason for the delay.
"The competing demands of those and other matters, at a time when the court generally ... and my individual session are attempting to reconstitute to resume orderly in-person proceedings, proved that March 7, 2022, was too soon to issue the fully developed filing by me that the complexities of this case require," he wrote.
Woodlock said he expected to issue a ruling no later than April 15.
Massachusetts' revised law requires makers of vehicles sold in the state to equip vehicles that use telematics systems with a standardized, open-access data platform, beginning with the 2022 model year. It also gives vehicle owners and independent repair shops access to real-time information from the telematics, such as crash notifications, remote diagnostics and navigation.
The state's original right-to-repair law — enacted in 2013 and adopted a year later as a national standard by automakers and independent garages and retailers — mandates vehicle owners and independent repair shops have access to the same diagnostic and repair data that automakers make available to their franchised dealerships and certified repair facilities.
The 2020 ballot measure was highly contested and once again pitted independent repair shops and aftermarket parts retailers against most major automakers, with both sides spending millions to sway voters.
Critics, including the alliance and major automakers, called the measure a "data grab" by independent garages and big-box aftermarket parts stores and said it posed cybersecurity, personal safety and privacy risks to vehicle owners.
Supporters, such as the Auto Care Association and O'Reilly Auto Parts, said the initiative closed a loophole in the law that exempted data transmitted wirelessly through telematics systems while giving vehicle owners more choice and control over their data.
Last month, Healey filed a stipulation that her office would not enforce provisions of the updated law until after the court issues a ruling.
The alliance has argued the state's amended law — referred to as the "data access law" in the lawsuit — conflicts with several federal laws, poses cybersecurity and vehicle safety risks and sets an impossible timeline for compliance.
The alliance also has said no standardized authorization system for access to vehicle networks and/or their onboard diagnostics systems currently exists, nor is there an unaffiliated entity that could run the system.
Two auto makers — Subaru and Kia — disabled the telematics systems in 2022 or newer model-year vehicles registered in Massachusetts to avoid compliance hiccups amid the ongoing legal battle.
Healey argued those actions show that automakers can immediately comply with certain sections of the state's updated law as well as federal law.