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Massachusetts coalition backs 'Right to Repair'

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A refortified coalition representing more than 1,500 independent automotive repair shops and related industries says it will push for passage of landmark "Right to Repair" legislation in Massachusetts this year.

The 2009 Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act is the focus of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, which believes that the act "would guarantee equal access to automotive repair information for independent repairers and their customers."

The coalition says the need for legislation is growing, as more consumers choose to repair -- rather than replace -- their cars amid an economy and an automobile industry seemingly in freefall.

"Consumers want the right to decide where to have their car serviced," says Ernie Corrigan, spokesman for the coalition. He says there are more than five million cars registered in Massachusetts that need reliable and affordable service without manufacturers withholding repair information

"If car manufacturers can dictate where you have your car repaired, then you have lost your right to choose. The Right to Repair legislation will free consumers who are now being held hostage to new car dealerships and their higher priced repairs. After all, who owns your car?"

The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition includes the New England Service Station Automotive Repair Association, the Massachusetts Auto Body Association, the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association and the New England Tire & Service Association.

Also supporting the Right to Repair movement in Massachusetts are the National Federation of Independent Business, the Massachusetts Retailers Association, the Consumer Electronics Association, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.

Car manufacturers have argued against the legislation in the past, in part by claiming it would expose their technological "trade secrets." In response, the independent repair industry has voluntarily inserted legislative language in the Massachusetts bill that excludes car manufacturers' trade secrets from being conveyed to repairers as part of the information stream.

"Every legislator has independent repair shops in their districts, so they understand that this is a consumer issue," says Corrigan. "The people who are hurt by this issue are car owners and the independent repairers who owners choose as their preferred mechanic."

Last year's bill won support from two key legislative committees, but died when it wasn't passed by year's end. It has been resurrected, however, and is being refiled this year.

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