Even basics in dispute on Right to Repair ballot question

Massachusetts voters will be asked in November whether to update the Right to Repair law — but they may have a hard time wading through the complexities of a ballot question when supporters and opponents cannot even agree on the basics of what it will do.

Tommy Hickey, director of the Right to Repair Coalition, and Conor Yunits, a spokesman for No on One, joined the Codcast to discuss the ballot question – and disagreed on even the most factual details of what the current law says and how the ballot question would change it.

Today, cars are equipped with a port where a mechanic can plug in and diagnose a problem. The ballot question would require manufacturers to create a new open access data platform where consumers, and their repair shops, could use a mobile app to access telematic data, which is information transmitted wirelessly.

Hickey said telematics is simply new technology that provides the same diagnostic and repair information now available through the port. He compared it to the internet and email replacing letters and pay phones. “There is a new, more efficient way to diagnose and repair a car,” Hickey said.

Hickey called the ballot question an update to the 2013 law, maintaining the spirit of the law that gives independent repair shops the same ability to fix a car as a dealership. He said the ballot question will create “a level playing field” where owners can access their car’s information and “can continue to get their cars fixed where they want.” For example, a repair shop owner might want to get a notification that a car’s brakes are about to wear out – a notification now sent only to a dealer.

But Yunits said the ballot question would require the sharing of additional information, like a car’s location. Yunits said the Autocare Association, one of the ballot question’s funders, has been showing mockups of a mobile app that includes GPS location and behavior data. “It goes well beyond mechanical data,” Yunits said. “And that is where the risk is.”