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Right to Repair

The Public's Stake in Protecting the Right to Repair

Anyone driving a car equipped with keyless entry might agree that it's the most practical convenience since the cup holder. Unfortunately, car makers have made it increasingly difficult for anyone other than manufacturers' franchised dealers to maintain and repair vehicles, including things as routine as an oil change or tire pressure. As automotive technology advances, and digital electronics are increasingly used to control everything from ignition to emission, simple maintenance on everyday cars is no longer simple, particularly for independent garages, which are slowly being shut out of the installation and repair business by the automotive industry. This isn't just about opening doors, at least not literally. It's about access to the know-how, tools, and parts needed to maintain or modify the vehicles people and businesses purchase. It's about consumer choice.

Historically, the combination of lower cost (driven by free market competition), timeliness, and convenience has made non-dealer service the most practical and affordable choice for auto care for millions of car owners, including businesses. Yet, newer cars are requiring owners to return to dealers for scheduled service, repairs, or modifications, while making it tougher for independents to provide any option.

Independent repair shop owners are more likely to have problems diagnosing or fixing a customer's car because they do not have the information or equipment they need from the manufacturer. In extreme cases, some independents have had to resort to sending the customer's car to a dealer in order to complete a repair, resulting in longer repair times and increased costs for customers.

Take the simple case of replacing a lost ignition key. While it's true that today's programmable keys help prevent unauthorized copying and car theft (and enable conveniences like keyless entry), getting a replacement now requires dealer service - and comes with a hefty price. The cost for the key and programming is almost sure to exceed $100. A new remote entry fob, an inexpensive and simple device to produce, will cost even more.

The same scenario is increasingly the case with internal components, such as engine and suspension parts or even a car radio. On some new models, for example, replacing the original stereo with an aftermarket upgrade can impact the power windows and other systems. When car makers introduce design elements that needlessly complicate even a seemly straightforward stereo upgrade, one has to wonder whether this is in fact the intention of the automakers-to ensure that consumers have no other choice but to return to the dealership for modification or repair.

While it seems that carmakers have found new, innovative ways to lock consumers out of choices when it comes to repair and installation, the tow truck is en route, with legislation known as the Right To Repair Act. The bill has been introduced in a number of states, as well as Congress, and deserves broad support from the public and business. The proposed legislation ensures that vehicle owners have access to the information and tools they need in deciding where, how, and by whom to have their vehicles serviced. It doesn't prevent carmakers from developing proprietary technology or new features, but it does protect consumer choice in deciding how to maintain the car they buy.

In protecting free choice, Right to Repair promotes free-market competition and fair pricing. Don't like the stereo in your car? This legislation allows you to choose a new one. Want an inexpensive, multi-function GPS device that can be moved between cars? Visit your local electronics store, not your car dealership. This legislation gives consumers the choice of what electronics they have in their cars and how they'll have them installed. To maintain your Right to Repair, please contact your local, state and federal representatives.

For more information, please visit www.RightToRepair.org