State Senate delays vote on right-to-repair bill
BOSTON — After expediting a landmark auto-repair bill earlier this session, the Senate voted Thursday to hold off on a vote that would require auto manufacturers to provide independent shops with diagnostic repair information.
Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, made the motion to table the bill until the next session. This allowed the Senate to spend more than two hours in debate on a competitive energy-pricing bill.
Arthur Kinsman of Plympton, a member of the Massachusetts Right to Repair coalition, attended the floor debate. He was surprised at the action but said the delay would not affect the bill’s chances.
“We are pleased that they brought the bill to the floor,” Kinsman said in an interview. “It doesn’t mean it’s over; we expect a vote soon.”
The so-called “right-to-repair” law would require auto dealerships to, by next year, provide dealer-quality diagnostic and repair information to all owners and independent repair shops for all vehicles sold in the state.
Failure to comply would result in a fine of at least $10,000 for each violation. After 2015, the information would have to be available on an online database, for which manufacturers could charge a subscription fee. A similar law failed to pass at the federal level in 2001.
“A lot of manufacturers like Toyota are already complying with what we want,” Kinsman said.
He said the bill passed unanimously in the Senate when his group last pushed for it.
The bill had been stuck in the Consumer Protection Committee, and the Senate Ways and Means Committee used a procedural rule to fast-track the bill to a floor vote. Advocates for the law had threatened to take the measure to the ballot in November if the Legislature failed to act.
Representatives from auto manufacturers and dealerships who oppose the new law attended the Senate session. Opponents have previously argued that the bill would mandate the use of obsolete technology, could expose trade secrets, and that the information is already available.
Justine Griffin, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, wrote a statement expressing their disappointment with the expedited bill.
“This new bill is one which neither we nor any other members of our coalition were ever consulted on and many of the same problems remain,” Griffin wrote.