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Posted On: November 7, 2012

Commonwealth Votes Yes on 'Right to Repair'

In Tuesday’s election, voters in the Commonwealth overwhelmingly voted to pass question number one, the “Right to Repair” ballot question. Boston.com reports that 85 percent of voters approved the question with 98 percent of the votes counted at 2pm on Wednesday. Question number one passed with the highest margins of the three 2012 Massachusetts election ballot questions.

The new law requires that, by 2015, automakers must provide dealers and repair shops access to software codes and information which make the diagnosis and car repair easier for them.

According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, the law will not force any manufacturer to reveal trade secrets and also will not interfere with any agreements made by the manufacturer, dealer or authorized repair facility. Any violation of the law will be treated as a violation of state consumer protection and unfair trade practices.

Those in favor of the new law argue that fixing cars will become much less troublesome and less expensive for car owners to get car repairs because they will have more options than just car dealerships to fix their cars. It was supported by consumer groups such as AAA, which believes that “when you buy a car you should have access to all information needed to fix it.”

The “Right to Repair” was first introduced to legislation in 2008 and fueled much debate in Beacon Hill. In July, supporters of the bill submitted 16,000 signatures, well over the amount needed, in order for it to be placed on the ballot. Following this in late July, state legislators approved a compromise giving automakers until 2018 to comply with the new law. Governor Deval Patrick signed off on the compromise which was ultimately trumped by voters in the election.

Due to the legislation giving automakers until 2018 to comply with the new law, voters were initially urged to skip the question on the ballot, however, over the past weeks AAA and other supporters encouraged voters to pass the law. Spokesperson for the “Right to Repair” committee, Arthur Kinsman, said he considered telling people to skip the question however felt that passing the law would fundamentally benefit voters.

Opponents of the law, such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, argued that independent car repair services and mechanics already have access to much of the software needed to repair cars and the current system they use works. They also argued that the law doesn’t provide any savings to consumers and could lead to the release of sensitive personal information to the public, threatening safety.

Voters resoundingly approve ‘Right to repair’ ballot question, Boston.com, November 7, 2011.