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Big win for global ‘right to repair’ movement

Home Transport & Logistics Automotive Big win for global ‘right to repair’ movement

NOT only did US residents vote for a new president recently, but residents of the state of Massachusetts passed a ‘right to repair’ law that will compel automakers to open up car data to vehicle owners and independent mechanics.

Gunther Schmitz, Chairman of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA) said the 75% ‘Yes’ vote clearly showed that the vast majority of the state’s population agrees with the R2R principles, a view he believes is shared by most South Africans.

Massachusetts voters approved a measure requiring car manufacturers to let people access vehicle data for repairs. Question 1 of the vote will now amend a landmark 2012 “right to repair” law in the state and after it’s adopted, manufacturers will have until car model year 2022 to install a standard open data platform.

The platform will let vehicle owners and independent mechanics access telematics, wirelessly transmitted data that is typically sent directly to a remote server. The original Massachusetts bill, while ground-breaking, didn’t cover this wirelessly transmitted information. Question 1 will grant users access via a smartphone app.

Right to repair advocates across the globe have hailed the measure as a victory. “Tuesday’s victory shows that people overwhelmingly support fair repair,” wrote iFixit’s Kevin Purdy, “and they want people they trust to fix the things they own.”

As cars become increasingly computerised, telematics contain important mechanical data that aids in repairs — and by controlling that data, manufacturers could limit “unauthorised” third-party repairs.

Massachusetts has been a key battleground for right to repair advocates, who successfully fought claims that Question 1 posed a security risk to car owners. While the state’s law is unique, making companies comply could effectively drive a nationwide standard.

R2RSA is a Section-21 not-for-profit organisation which has been advocating for freedom of repair choice for South African vehicle owners over the last six years. Schmitz described the Massachusetts vote as another big win for consumers.

In South Africa the Competition Commission published its draft guidelines for the automotive aftermarket sector in February 2020. Schmitz said COVID-19 had delayed publication of the finalised version but he hoped it would not be delayed much longer.

“It is encouraging to see such a strong focus on increased consumer choice, fair competition and competitive pricing,” he said.

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