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Mass. voters passed a “right to repair” automotive law in 2020. Why is it still on hold?

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image of right to repair referendum

The Boston Globe, May 2024

In 2020, Massachusetts voters thought they’d gained full access to the digital data stored in their cars when they backed a “right-to-repair” referendum by a 3-to-1 margin. But three and a half years later, the law remains dormant, as consumers, automakers, car repair shops, and Massachusetts’ attorney general all wait for a single federal judge to make up his mind.

Less than a month after the referendum passed, an alliance of the world’s biggest carmakers sued to block the law. The lawsuit landed on the docket of Douglas Woodlock, a senior judge in the US District Court in Boston. It’s been there ever since. Woodlock held a trial on the matter in June 2021, but he has yet to issue a ruling in the case. Indeed, there’s been no action of any kind since last December, according to the federal court database PACER. And nobody but the judge knows why.

“Absolute silence. There’s not one word from him,” said Tommy Hickey, director of the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, the group that led the referendum campaign. Woodlock’s ruling will have massive implications for the global auto industry. If the law is upheld, every company that sells vehicles in Massachusetts will have to provide wireless access to detailed digital information about all the car’s systems. This would enable independent auto repair shops to get remote diagnostic data about their customers’ cars, enabling them to compete with authorized car dealers, which can already access the data.

Read more at The Boston Globe.

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