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Where there's a Ways, there's a Means for independent repair shops in Massachusetts

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Following extensive debate, a Massachusetts legislative committee has approved legislation that will provide independent repair shops the same access to diagnostic repair information and tools that car companies made available to their franchised dealers.

The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure voted to report the landmark legislation, HB 296, out of committee favorably. It will next appear before the Committee on Ways and Means.

Opponents of the legislation, co-sponsored by state Rep. Vincent Pedone, D-Worcester, and state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, argue that independent repair shops already have access to the information they need. They also classified at least some of the information requested as "trade secrets" or proprietary.

"We have been clear from the beginning of this process that what we want -– and what consumers want -– is repair and diagnostic information that many of these manufacturers are selectively withholding," says Stan Morin, general manager of New England Tire Car Care Centers Inc. in Attleboro, Mass., who serves as the lead advocate for passage of the legislation on behalf of the Massachusetts Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP).

"We don't want or need their trade secrets or any information that could even vaguely be described as proprietary. If they are providing this repair information to dealers, then it isn't the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, and they can provide that information to us."

Joining the AASP in its support of the legislation is the New England Service Station & Automotive Repair Association Inc. (NESSARA), the Massachusetts Auto Body Association and the Central Massachusetts Auto Rebuilders' Association.

"We want to make sure that our members, and the industry as a whole, retain the ability to locate the information needed to repair all vehicles," says NESSARA Executive Director Paul O'Connell. "We fully support this legislation's effort to keep the choice of where to have your vehicle repaired in the hands of the consumer."

For more information about the Right to Repair Act, visit www.RightToRepair.org.

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