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Time runs out for state Right to Repair Act

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In the final analysis, the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act ran out of time -- for now.

After passing through the state Senate 38-0 (see "Right to Repair: one step closer to passage"), the Right to Repair Act was one of more than a dozen bills that members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives needed to vote on before its 2009-2010 session ended at midnight on July 31. At the top of the list was controversial legislation permitting the building of three casinos and the use of slots at two race tracks, "and all the drama surrounding that," said Art Kinsman, coordinator for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition.

The Right to Repair Act (S. 2517) didn't get to a vote. Now, barring unlikely out-of-session maneuvering, it must be re-introduced in December, in preparation for the next two-year session, which begins Jan. 1, 2011.

Kinsman said the bill, which also had received support from the joint House-Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, had more than enough votets in the House to pass. "We'd have been in far worse shape if the bill had been defeated."

Citing "tremendous progress made toward the goals of creating more consumer savings and choice in car repair," the coalition vowed to fight again next legislative session to enact the new law. As Kinsman told Modern Tire Dealer, the Massachusetts public was unaware of what the Right to Repair Act represented when it was first introduced. Now it's front-page news.

"Lawmakers and consumers now understand that Right to Repair legislation is needed now to level the playing field for the car repair industry and save money for the consumer."

The Right to Repair Act would require vehicle manufacturers to supply independent repair shops with the same codes and information needed to fix newer cars that they give to their franchised car dealerships. According to the coalition, repair shops would need to pay for the data, but more competition would result in lower prices for consumers.

Here are excerpts from the coalition's official statement released on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010.

* The Right to Repair coalition said it had achieved major success in raising awareness of the need to enact legislation that would require the big car manufacturers to sell the repair information now held solely by car manufacturers to local repair shops. As it stands now, not all of the repair information is available to independent, neighborhood shops which studies have shown can save consumers an average of $258 per repair over the higher cost of new car dealers.

* “The Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition is energized by the 8,000 calls generated by consumers and independent repairers who asked their lawmakers to stand up to big car manufacturers. We vow to come back stronger than ever. This is a piece of unfinished business that has a major impact on every person who owns a car,” said Kinsman. Twenty-three Massachusetts newspapers editorialized on favor of S. 2517.

Members of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition include the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association; New England Tire and Service Association; Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the National Federation of Independent Businesses;  Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC; American Car Care Centers; and the Massachusetts Insurance Federation.

Also members are Midas International Corp.; Consumer Electronics Association; Massachusetts Locksmith’s Association; RetireSafe; the Automotive Recyclers Association; the Automotive Recyclers Association; the Coalition for Auto Repair Equity; the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association; and AAA Southern New England.

Kinsman added that more than 1,000 independent auto repairers across Massachusetts also were in favor of the bill's passage.

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