Right to Repair bill hindered by ASA lobbying, AAIA charges

Jan. 1, 2020
BETHESDA, Md. — The Automotive Service Association (ASA), which brokered a deal with automakers last year to guarantee access to OEM repair data, is lobbying against the Right to Repair bill that others in the aftermarket want, according to the

BETHESDA, Md. — The Automotive Service Association (ASA), which brokered a deal with automakers last year to guarantee access to OEM repair data, is lobbying against the Right to Repair bill that others in the aftermarket want, according to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA).

“It was our understanding that they were not going to lobby against it, but that apparently was not true,” said Aaron Lowe, AAIA’s vice president of regulatory and government affairs. This makes lobbying for Right to Repair far more difficult, says Lowe.

Last June in our story on ASA’s agreement with the OEMs, Ron Pyle, executive director for ASA, said, “Some folks felt that we were lobbying against the [legislative] process. But at this point there is no legislation. You can’t lobby against something that doesn’t exist.”

While AAIA claims ASA began lobbying against Right to Repair in the last month, ASA Washington Representative Bob Redding would not use such a term. Redding says his group contends the legislation is unnecessary at the present time.

“Frankly we believe the agreement is working and we’re reporting that to Congress,” said Redding. “We see our message as much more positive.”

Proponents of the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act (H.R. 2735) say the bill would guarantee open access to vital repair information, specifically service data pulled from onboard diagnostics systems. It also would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to enforce regulations that ensure competition in the vehicle repair business.

According to AAIA, Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Edolphus Towns (D-NY) reintroduced H.R. 2735 in the House last July. The bill had 54 co-sponsors, but was not considered before adjournment of the 107th Congress. Last year the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Commerce and Tourism held a hearing on Senate Bill 2617 (a companion bill to H.R. 2735), but a new sponsor has not yet been found. Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, who tragically died in a plane crash last year, had sponsored the bill.

In the last few months, Right to Repair advocates have taken their fight to the grassroots level. Beginning in November 2003, point-of-purchase displays were put in place at retail stores, service shops, jobber locations and others. The displays encouraged customers to sign petitions in favor of the bills. Roughly 100,000 signatures have been gathered in the three months since the displays were put in place. On top of that nearly 10,000 letters and e-mails in favor of Right to Repair have been sent to legislators through AAIA’s online Legislative Action Center.

The future of the bills remains tenuous, especially following last year’s agreement between ASA and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM). Original equipment manufacturers through the stewardship of the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) have voluntarily set up Web sites that provide emissions and non-emissions service information.

Lowe says his staff is currently auditing the Web sites to see if they are supplying all of the information they agreed upon. The process will take a couple months because of the vastness of the sites.

Redding says the OEM Web sites are serving their purpose, providing the aftermarket with vital repair information. He is certain the process is working because of the reduction in complaints from service professionals about the lack of OEM repair information. ASA has more than 12,000 service shop members and does not intend to do anything to hurt their businesses, he says.

“We felt we owed it to our members to take one opportunity to work with automakers to get an agreement. And we did that,” he says. ASA is not opposed to considering legislation down the road if the process proves faulty, he says. Redding added that more time is needed before pushing a legislative solution. “Give it a chance to work,” he says.

“Our board of directors is empowered and is the final line of responsibility for the association,” he says. “They repair cars for collision and mechanical shops. And in their final analysis, they believe the agreement is working.”

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