If you've been in any number of shopping centers of the past few weeks you might have noticed people with clipboards trying to get your signature. If you didn't walk by too fast, you might have heard the words "Right to Repair."
These folks are trying to collect nearly 70,000 signatures to get a measure on the 2012 ballot that, if passed, would compel auto manufacturers to provide computer codes so that any repair shop would have access to diagnostic tools to fix late model cars. Currently, a lot of those codes are held by the manufacturers so that only repair shops at dealerships are able to diagnose certain problems.
As of Wednesday, the Right to Repair coalition says it has about 50,000 signatures. Members of the coalition include AAA and a wide array of repair shops and small businesses.
Giving independent repair shops access to the diagnostic codes would give consumers an opportunity to get less expensive repairs. If you want more information about the right to repair campaign in Massachusetts, here's the lobbying group's FAQ.
UPDATE: Opponents of Right to Repair, the Massachusetts Auto Coalition, wants you to know their take. Here's their website.
They assert this is really about auto parts chains getting the intellectual property so they can make cheap replacement parts. The opposition says independent auto repairers can get access to diagnostic trouble codes and other codes involving security features, but are trying to get to codes that have greater implications.
The group notes that some police groups have backed their side due to concerns that release of certain codes could lead to increased theft.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com