U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush on Feb. 3 introduced the Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act.
HR 6570 would preserve consumer access to high-quality, affordable 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 licensed dealerships, the Illinois Congressman explained in a news release.
Consumers prefer independent auto repair shops over licensed dealerships by a wide margin – 70% of the 288 million registered vehicles in the United States are maintained by independent repair facilities. However, inadequate and outdated laws and regulations have made it increasingly difficult for independent repair shops to access critical vehicle data needed for repairs, benefiting car companies and licensed dealerships at the expense of consumers and mom and pop repair shops.
“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 in a news release. “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.
“The lack of meaningful consumer choice in the repair market harms low-income Americans and those in underserved communities most. A single mother who relies on her vehicle to go to work and get her kids to school can’t afford to wait days or weeks to have her car repaired at a dealership that is hours away and more expensive than the auto shop around the corner. That is why I am proud to be introducing the first federal Right to Repair legislation for the auto sector. The REPAIR Act is commonsense, necessary legislation that will end manufacturers’ monopoly on vehicle repair and maintenance and allow Americans the freedom to choose where to repair their vehicles.”
The REPAIR Act would update existing laws to reflect the modernization of automobiles and the importance of consumer choice in auto repair, according to Rush. The legislation is written to foster a competitive environment for vehicle repair while prioritizing cybersecurity and safety for vehicle systems.
Specifically, the REPAIR Act would:
- 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 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 them with the statutory authority to provide recommendations to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on how to address emerging barriers to vehicle repair and maintenance.
- 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.
The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), Auto Care Association, CAR (Consumer Access to Repair) Coalition and Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) applauded Rush for introducing the legislation.
“Today is one of the most memorable and important days in the history of the aftermarket. The REPAIR Act will help guarantee consumers’ rights and the ability of the industry to ensure their vehicles operate safely,” said Paul McCarthy, president and CEO of AASA. “From the repair shop to the board room, this effort has been fueled by the people of the aftermarket, and we couldn’t be prouder of that alignment behind this important legislation. This effort supports principles of competition, consumer choice and safety that we believe will benefit the whole automotive industry in the long run. We look forward to working with Representative Rush and our industry colleagues towards passage of this critical legislation.”
By way of a 2014 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), vehicle owners and technicians are supposed to have the same access to information, tools and software that automakers make available to their franchised dealers. However, as vehicles become more technologically advanced, vehicle data is increasingly being transmitted wirelessly and sent only to vehicle manufacturers, who then have the ability to determine who can access the data and at what cost. Independent repair shops – which are cheaper than dealerships and preferred by the vast majority of car owners – are effectively locked out.
The resulting landscape has reduced choice and raised costs for consumers, who spend an average of 36% more on vehicle repair at dealerships than at independent repair shops. Limited access to data has already impacted repairs for 37% of vehicles in the United States, and this number is set to increase dramatically in the coming years – by 2030, 95% of new vehicles sold around the world by 2030 will have wireless data-transmission capabilities.
In May 2021, the FTC released a report highlighting the barriers auto manufacturers have instituted to block consumers’ Right to Repair. In the report, the FTC supported expanding consumer repair options and found “scant evidence” for the repair restrictions imposed by original equipment manufacturers. In a subsequent policy statement on the report, the FTC noted that these repair restrictions create hardships for families and businesses and that the commission was “concerned that this this burden is borne more heavily by underserved 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.
“Ensuring consumer choice while retaining a free and competitive market across the vehicle lifecycle is at the heart of this legislation,” said Bill Hanvey, president and CEO of the Auto Care Association. “As personal transportation has become more essential than ever, we need to make sure that 288 million American motorists have access to affordable, safe and secure repairs for their vehicles. The tenets of this bill are principles-based, balanced and address concerns shared across the automotive industry. Passage of this bill will keep consumers at the wheel while preserving an industry that contributes 4.4 million U.S. jobs and 2% GDP.”
The full text of the REPAIR Act is available HERE.