The right-to-repair issue that pits consumers and independent repair shops against automakers and franchised dealerships over access to repair information and parts could soon move from the current battleground in Massachusetts to Washington, D.C.
The latest fight started over a Massachusetts law that would require automakers to equip vehicles that use telematics — which collect and wirelessly transmit information such as crash notifications and remote diagnostics — with a standardized, open-access data platform starting with the 2022 model year. Such a platform would be accessible to vehicle owners or third parties such as independent repair shops.
Automakers are challenging the law in federal court, arguing it is preempted by several U.S. laws, including ones that cover intellectual property and design patents.
But the Federal Trade Commission is hinting that it could write new regulations, and right-to-repair advocates are trying to generate interest in Congress for federal legislation.
Joshua Sarnoff, a DePaul University law professor, says Washington is the proper venue for the right-to-repair argument because most intellectual property rights can be regulated only at the federal level. Moreover, legislation has been proposed in several other states, and manufacturers don't want to deal with the prospect of complying with differing state laws.
"The problem is, getting federal legislation passed when there are well-funded opposing parties is incredibly difficult," Sarnoff says.