WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has introduced a federal Right-to-Repair bill that would allow independent repair shops access to customers' vehicle data.
Rush, a senior member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, introduced the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act (H.R. 6570),with the support of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), the Auto Care Association (ACA), CAR (Consumer Access to Repair) Coalition and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
The ACA and AASA have asked their members to encourage other legislators to co-sponsor the bill.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) said it also supports the federal bill.
Retired CEO Roy Littlefield said it would be easier if the aftermarket industry had a national law to compel OEMs to share access to vehicle telematics, but predicted it will be a hard bill to pass.
The legislation would preserve consumer choice for vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and independent repair shops have equal access to repair and maintenance tools and data as car companies and their licensed dealerships.
"Americans should not be forced to bring their cars to more costly and inconvenient dealerships for repairs when independent auto repair shops are often cheaper and far more accessible," Rush said, "but as cars become more advanced, manufacturers are getting sole access to important vehicle data while independent repair shops are increasingly locked out.
"The status quo for auto repair is not tenable, and it is getting worse. If the monopoly on vehicle repair data continues, it would affect nearly 860,000 blue-collar workers and 274,000 service facilities," he said.
"Just as we access diagnostic data through the OBD-II port, we also need access to the wirelessly generated vehicle maintenance and repair data from today's modern cars – but it's currently restricted," the ACA and AASA said in a joint statement.
"This barrier limits consumer choice and increases the cost to repair and maintain vehicles. The REPAIR Act (H.R. 6570) will reduce these barriers, put consumers' interests first and keep your businesses competitive."
The REPAIR Act aims to update existing laws to reflect the modernization of automobiles and the importance of consumer choice in auto repair. The legislation is written to foster a competitive environment for vehicle repair while prioritizing cybersecurity and safety for vehicle systems, according to the congressman.
According to Rush, the REPAIR Act will:
- Preserve consumer access to high quality and affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and their repairers of choice have access to necessary repair and maintenance tools and data as vehicles continue to become more advanced;
- Ensure access to critical repair tools and information. All tools and equipment, wireless transmission of repair and diagnostic data, and access to on-board diagnostic and telematic systems needed to repair a vehicle must be made available to the independent repair industry;
- Ensure cybersecurity by allowing vehicle manufacturers to secure vehicle-generated data and requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop standards for how vehicle generated data necessary for repair can be accessed securely;
- Provide transparency for consumers by requiring vehicle owners be informed that they can choose where and how to get their vehicle repaired;
- Create a stakeholder advisory committee and provide it with the statutory authority to provide recommendations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on how to address emerging barriers to vehicle repair and maintenance; and
- Provide ongoing enforcement by establishing a process for consumers and independent repair facilities to file complaints with the FTC regarding alleged violations of the requirements in the bill and a requirement that the FTC act within five months of a claim.
In a May 2021 report, the FTC supported expanding consumer repair options and found "scant evidence" for the repair restrictions imposed by original equipment manufacturers. A subsequent FTC policy statement said repair restrictions create hardships for families and businesses and that the commission was "concerned that this this burden is borne more heavily by under-served communities, including communities of color and lower-income Americans."
In July, President Biden issued an executive order encouraging the FTC to address anti-competitive repair restrictions.
The REPAIR Act addresses issues similar to the Right to Repair Act approved by 75% of Massachusetts voters in November 2020. The law has been under attack by some vehicle manufacturers that argue that providing universal access to telematics information would create cybersecurity problems.