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The Legal Fight for ‘Right to Repair’ Continues in Maine

If approved, the referendum would require manufacturers to provide vehicle telematics data to independent repair shops.
Photo | Getty Images

Earlier in the week, a coalition of independent auto shops in Maine launched a “Right to Repair” campaign for a referendum which would require manufacturers to supply telematics and diagnostic data to smaller auto repair shops. Maine’s Secretary of State Shenna Bellows cleared the referendum to go out for signatures, according to News Center Maine. If it gets around 70,000 signatures it will be on the ballot and, if it’s voted for, Maine would become the second state to introduce right to repair laws, after Massachusetts did the same thing two years ago.

Currently, automakers do supply software and diagnostic data to independent shops for new vehicles. However, some telematics data—such as GPS positioning, emissions, temperature, and performance information—is restricted by automakers and can’t be seen by typical diagnostic software. Instead, that data is wirelessly sent to dealerships. So when customers take their cars to independent shops, or even use their own personal OBDII scanners, there’s information they can’t see, which can make problems more difficult to diagnose.

The executive director of Maine’s Right to Repair Coalition, Thomas Hickey, says that owners should be able to take their car wherever they want for repairs. Hickey led Massachusetts’ campaign, which was successful, and feels that voters will be supportive of this initiative.

Photo | Getty Images

However, automakers are pushing back, as they say access to telematics data can compromise a vehicle’s security. Wayne Weikel, representative for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), argues that automakers provide more than enough data and repair options for owners and independent shops. The AAI also agreed to supply such data to any owner who wants to repair their own car, as a daily, monthly, or annual subscription, as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 2014. It’s actually something Maine’s “Right to Repair” authors added into their referendum.

If this referendum is approved, independent shops will be able to sue auto manufacturers if they’re denied telematics data, with possible fines up to $10,000. However, expect automakers to fight back, even if it is approved. After the same referendum passed in Massachusetts, automakers filed a lawsuit to overturn it, a lawsuit whose outcome is still awaiting a federal judged’s decision.

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