Pennsylvania Committees Look at Service Information Availability
ASA Says the Information Is Available
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives Consumer Affairs and Transportation committees recently held a joint hearing, in Philadelphia, on the Right to Repair issue. The committees heard testimony from automotive repair shop owners, automakers, parts distributors, AAA and others.
There is no active legislation in Pennsylvania at this time addressing service information.
John Francis III of Francis Automotive in West Chester, Pa., testified for the Automotive Service Association (ASA), emphasizing that automotive service information is already available to independent repairers and consumers. Francis said, "At Francis Automotive, we use several third-party service information providers - ALLDATA, Identifix and an online service that includes technicians from all over the world, iATN - on a daily basis. As needed, our technicians will use automotive manufacturer websites. We have several aftermarket scan tools that we use and two auto manufacturer scan tools. Tools to perform reflashing are available for all makes of vehicles. It's a business decision regarding which tools to purchase. We have made a business choice not to purchase equipment to reflash BMWs and Mercedes. It is not because the tools and information are not available - they are available. But for our business model, we have chosen not to purchase this equipment."
Francis and his father, John Francis Jr., have conducted service information educational briefings for members of Congress and their staffs in Washington, D.C.
Howard Pitkow, longtime ASA Mechanical Division Operations Committee member and owner of Wagenwerx Inc. in Wyndmoor, Pa., also spoke at the Pennsylvania hearing, highlighting that Right to Repair legislation is not necessary and industry resources would be better spent on training for technicians.
The hearing allowed committee members an opportunity to review an issue that has not been previously considered in Pennsylvania. Although Right to Repair legislation has been introduced in the past, there has been no interest shown for the issue in the legislature.
Additionally, I submitted written testimony opposing Right to Repair legislation and highlighting the good work done by the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) as "a voluntary industry organization, having served as a mechanism to share information and resolve issues that arise in the areas of service information, tools and training. In the United States, we have about 500 million post-warranty repair service orders each year. Independent repair facilities repair approximately 75 percent of these cars. NASTF is designed to address gaps in information that may occur in the repair. ASA and other industry partners have spent a great deal of time and resources on marketing NASTF to independent repairers, encouraging repairers to contact NASTF if they had difficulty obtaining repair information from their third-party information provider or from the automaker websites.
"In 2008, the total number of service information requests received by NASTF was 44. This is out of 500,000,000 post-warranty repairs nationwide. In 2009, we had a total number of 45 requests for information and 65 requests in 2010. NASTF had no requests from Pennsylvania repairers and technicians for service information in 2009, one request for information in 2010 and no requests so far in 2011 despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent marketing NASTF in the aftermarket, trade press articles and initiatives and promotions at industry events."
The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), an automotive parts distributor association, was not supportive of NASTF's efforts in testimony by AAIA witness Aaron Lowe. Lowe said, "However, NASTF is a one-person operation that is tasked with resolving problems around the nation. It often takes weeks or months to obtain a resolution from the manufacturer and often that resolution is a response stating that information is not available or we are working to resolve that issue. A shop that has a car in one of its service bays needs to have that car repaired the same day or at worst the next day or (it) will lose that business permanently. This may be why the organization is rarely used by independent service facilities."
Sandy Bass-Cors of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) continued criticizing NASTF in her testimony by stating, "You will also hear about the National Automotive Service Task Force. NASTF was founded, is funded and is monitored by the car companies in 2002. A decoy to Congress to make them think that NASTF was a venture to help the aftermarket. In fact, the aftermarket stopped using it after repeatedly not receiving information and then not receiving refunds when they were told the information was not available to them. Like a bad slot machine. Money in and rarely anything back."
As of this writing, the Pennsylvania committees have scheduled no other action on Right to Repair. The bill has been introduced in several states this year, including Oregon, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, but it has not had any traction. The U.S. House of Representatives has Right to Repair legislation, H.R. 1449, but there have been no hearings scheduled, and the U.S. Senate has no legislation.
To view more information about service information or testimony from the Pennsylvania Right to Repair hearing, please go to ASA's legislative website, www.TakingtheHill.com.
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