Litigation Over Massachusetts’ “Right to Repair” Law Continues

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As we previously wrote, in November, Ballot Question 1 in Massachusetts was passed, which requires car manufacturers that sell cars equipped with telematics systems (i.e., a method of monitoring a vehicle by combining a GPS system with on-board diagnostics to record – and map – exactly where a car is and how fast it’s traveling, etc.) to install a standardized, open-data platform beginning with model year 2022. Such a system would allow the cars’ owners to access their telematics system data through a mobile app and to give their consent for independent repair facilities to access those data and send commands to the system for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing. However, automakers sued the state to block this “Right to Repair” law. See more here and here.

Last week, according to court transcripts, the federal judge in Alliance for Automotive Innovation v. Healy said he was close to a verdict but that he needed more information from the Alliance as to why it did not disclose that the new Subaru and Kia vehicles complied with the ”right to repair” technical requirements that the complaint claimed are impossible to follow. Judge Douglas Woodlock said, “We will ask whether we are dealing with concerted ignorance, willful blindness or simply ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’” The Alliance claims that it did not find out about the Subaru and Kia vehicles until after the evidence was presented to the judge last fall. Judge Woodlock said he was “trying to figure out why I should be as irritated as I am.”

The Alliance has argued that switching the technology off is avoiding, not complying with, the law. The automakers further claim giving independent mechanics access to a vehicle’s telematics system puts manufacturers at risk of violating federal safety standards by forcing them to either disable certain safety features or create a cybersecurity risk if the data are exposed to bad actors. However, in response, Judge Woodlock said that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its letter to the court has not explicitly said the Massachusetts law would cause manufacturers to violate federal law. See more about the NHTSA’s opinion here. Judge Woodlock seeks to make a final decision in this case before he begins what is expected to be a lengthy trial in his courtroom on March 7 in another matter. We will follow this case and report back on the final determination.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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