The Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act is a general label for a set of laws that seek to expand consumer rights in the motor vehicle industry. Supporters aim to require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to provide ample support for consumers and independent vehicle repair shops. At the same time, senators introduced the first federal motor vehicle right to repair bill in 2001, but no such laws passed in the US until 2013. Finally, in 2014, Massachusetts finalized the US’ first motor vehicle owners’ right to repair bill called H. 3757. This is a significant step forward for the right to repair, and there are lessons to learn from Massachusetts’ experience, especially as experts battle for Tesla right to repair. To see how Massachusetts’ right to repair law got passed, read on.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • In 2014, Massachusetts finalized the US’ first motor vehicle owners’ right to repair bill called H. 3757.
  • This is the first vehicle owners’ right to repair act passed in the US.
  • The bill is still being improved upon with a recent ballot initiative passed in 2020.

How Did Massachusetts Pass the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act?

The Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act requires vehicle manufacturers to give consumers and independent repair shops the same access to the exact vehicle diagnostic and repair information that OEM and authorized repair facilities. However, before we get into how the people passed it, let’s examine the arguments for and against Massachusetts’ right to repair law.

Advocates for Right to Repair

Advocates for the law included Art Kinsman (Massachusetts Right to Repair Committee) and lobbying groups like the AAIA, CARE, and AAM that fight for consumer rights in the automotive industry. They argued that OEMs harm consumers by monopolizing repair and restricting repair options and information.

Opposition to Right to Repair

Opposition to the law included vehicle manufacturers and automotive industry lobbyists. They argued that there was already a right to repair laws on the books and that new regulations harm the vehicle industry by revealing proprietary information. They also claimed that allowing consumers and repair professionals free access to their diagnostic and repair information would cause an influx of low-quality and unsafe repairs. This is the same argument Apple uses to justify its Apple Repair Program.

Passage of H. 4362 in the Massachusetts Legislature

A version of the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act passed in the state legislature, called H. 4362. This was designed as a compromise with auto manufacturers, and some right to repair activists saw it as good enough. That said, many other activists saw H. 4362 as too narrow and not enough protection for consumers. They recommended that voters still check “Yes” on the right to repair ballot initiative in that spirit.

Direct Ballot Initiative

The direct ballot initiative, also called Question 1, expanded the right to repair coverage from the Massachusetts legislature. Voters could select “Yes” or “No” on the initiative, and it passed with overwhelming support. But, unfortunately, the work wasn’t done yet. First, the legislators needed to reconcile the newly passed ballot initiative with the previously passed H. 4362.

Reconciliation of the Two Bills and Passage

The Massachusetts legislature met to reconcile the two bills and delivered with H. 3757. As a result, the Massachusetts Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act was signed into law by the governor on November 26, 2013.

Memorandum of Understanding

To deliver nationwide coverage that meets the requirements of the Massachusetts law, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the Association for Global Automakers signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2014. The memorandum made sure all parties were on the same page about the new right to repair legislation.

F.A.Q.S

When did Massachusetts first adopt a “right to repair law”?

Massachusetts first adopted the right to repair in 2014.


Why “Right to Repair” is in Jeopardy Now

Vehicle manufacturers are using wireless technology in modern vehicles. However, consumers need maintenance tools to access these technologies.


Why Is Right to Repair Necessary?

Right to repair keeps the goods you’ve purchased working for longer. In addition, the right to repair is about choosing where and how your devices get fixed.



STAT: Right to Repair Initiative passed with 86% voter support in the state’s 2012 general election. (source)

Ryan Mcbride

Ryan McBride is a writer based in Los Angeles. He has contributed work to magazines and sites including Gayot, Spy, Paper, Ladygunn, 3AM and the Crab Creek Review. He writes consumer reviews, essays, science and tech journalism as well as literary and art criticism.

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