Right to Repair Legislation
Reappears in 2011
By Robert L. Redding Jr.
No State or Congress Has Passed Right to Repair Legislation
Despite a decade of effort, no state or the U.S. Congress has passed the Motor Vehicle Owner's Right to Repair Act. Although the bill is introduced each Congress and in states across the nation, legislative bodies continue to let the bill die each session.
Already this year, Right to Repair legislation has been introduced in New York and Connecticut with Massachusetts, Oregon and New Jersey likely to have bills, too. There are indications that the bill will again be introduced in the U.S. Congress.
Last year, a broad coalition of independent repairers, automakers, dealers, law enforcement and labor unions opposed the bill across the country. At the state level, business groups and the biotechnology industry also stepped up in opposition. The Automotive Service Association (ASA) opposes the Right to Repair legislation, believing that the voluntary, free market system in place works.
Proponents of Right to Repair allege that automakers withhold service information. Lengthy congressional hearings and a review by the Federal Trade Commission found no evidence that the purported problem exists. Automakers have publicly reaffirmed their commitment to the 2002 ASA-Automaker Service Information Agreement in congressional hearings and in testimony before committees in state legislatures.
More than 75 percent of post-warranty repairs are handled by independent repair shops. It is in the interests of auto manufacturers to preserve customer loyalty by ensuring that vehicles can be easily repaired by independents. Automakers have lived up to commitments made in 2002 to provide repair information, and this process continues to improve and advance. No legislation will mandate training for technicians or the purchase of the advanced tools needed to complete a repair. These are business decisions.
This issue falsely presents itself as a solution to a nonexistent problem. Like any business, repair facilities must invest in the proper tools and training to repair complex vehicle systems. Repair shop owners who make these investments oppose the bill and state that information is available. This is proven every day by their shops not turning away repairs.
The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) was founded in the fall of 2000, a product of an Arizona pilot program. ASA hosted NASTF in its first major meeting, at the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) in Las Vegas.
NASTF is a cooperative effort among the automotive service industry, the equipment and tool industry, and automotive manufacturers to ensure that automotive service professionals have the information, training and tools needed to properly diagnose and repair today's high-tech vehicles.
Automakers actively participate in NASTF, and it has served as an effective forum for repairers and manufacturers to address and resolve perceived gaps in information and tools. In addition, NASTF oversees a vehicle security information process. To learn more about NASTF, please go to www.nastf.org.
ASA has argued for some time that this issue is about parts and intellectual property. It's unfortunate that the service information issue has pushed the repair community into this debate. Our areas of interest, service information, training and tool information are available, and the automakers have made clear their commitment to providing these pieces to the independent repairer. The repair industry has been so focused on protecting a voluntary industry structure for obtaining service information that one of the most important areas of the original ASA-Automaker Agreement has not been taken full advantage of, and that is training.
ASA, along with the automakers and in some states the local dealer organizations, has offered training opportunities in many states. Training was a key component of the earliest negotiations between ASA and the automakers. With the ever-changing engine and fuel technologies, the training piece is critical to the future of the independent repairer.
Too many industry resources have been consumed by the Right to Repair Act. It's unfortunate that the aftermarket could not have banded together to provide:
• Even more training opportunities for technicians
• More resources for vocational schools
• Advocacy for periodic motor vehicle safety inspection in the majority of states that don't have inspection programs
The Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Congress and numerous state legislatures have told Right to Repair proponents that this legislation is not necessary. It is time to put this issue aside and work together to improve training and educational opportunities for technicians and seek federal and state legislation that will actually benefit and not harm the aftermarket's independent repairer.
Taking the Hill
Republicans Propose Bold Cuts for EPA
The House Republican Leadership aims to make cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fiscal year 2011 funding by 17 percent. However, the EPA could also face additional cuts beyond the $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2011 that House Republicans have indicated thus far. These cuts are just a small part of the House Republicans' sketch for their vision for a smaller federal government.
Majority House members are aiming to make total spending cuts that will exceed $74 billion, including those cuts to non-security programs by at least $58 billion over the remaining months of this fiscal year. These cuts would be an unprecedented reduction.
The 111th Congress never approved a budget for this fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2010, and government programs are being funded by a continuing resolution that expires March 4.
It is not certain what additional cuts will be made from the EPA's fiscal year 2011 budget, but the proposed $2.6 billion cut would come out of its requested fiscal year 2011 level of approximately $10 billion. - Philip Thompson
ASA Opposes Efforts to Eliminate FIO's Federal Regulation Study
Recently, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) began an initiative asking ASA members to contact their legislators who are opposing the new Federal Insurance Office's (FIO) study that would be required under The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. At least one insurance industry organization has targeted the elimination of funding for this study. It is requesting that Congress pass legislation to defund the study of insurance and repeal the mandate granted to the FIO to make recommendations to Congress regarding insurance regulation based upon that study.
The study is a requirement for an insurance modernization report to the U.S. Congress, supported by ASA. The director of the Office of National Insurance is to conduct a study and submit a report to Congress on how to modernize and improve the system of insurance regulation in the United States no later than 18 months after the date of bill enactment. The Federal Insurance Office has the potential to be extremely beneficial to consumers and independent automotive repairers. This is why ASA is opposing any legislative effort to defund the FIO's insurance modernization study or the repeal of the mandate granted to the FIO to make recommendations to Congress regarding insurance regulatory modernization. - Kaitlyn Dwyer
Bob Redding is the Automotive Service Association's Washington, D.C., representative. He is a member of several federal and state advisory committees involved in the automotive industry.
For more information about the legislative activities of ASA, visit www.TakingTheHill.com.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]