OEMs Face New Uncertainty On Right To Repair In Maine While Massachusetts Court Continues To Delay Ruling

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Trade associations representing independent repair facilities have become strong advocates for expanding right to repair laws to increase member access to vehicle telematics data.
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Trade associations representing independent repair facilities have become strong advocates for expanding right to repair laws to increase member access to vehicle telematics data. These efforts have created uncertainty for auto manufacturers, most recently in Maine, where state legislators failed in their effort to amend that state's right to repair statute in response to a popular ballot referendum passed in November 2023 intended to address the incorporation of telematics into vehicle diagnostic and repair technologies. Meanwhile, a federal court in Massachusetts has offered no indication that a decision addressing the constitutionality of similar amendments to that state's right to repair statute will be forthcoming any time soon.


In Maine, 84% of voters approved a November 2023 ballot referendum to require that, within one year of the effective date of the amendments, all vehicles utilizing a telematics system sold in the state be equipped with an inter-operable, standardized, and owner-authorized access platform across all of the manufacturer's makes and models. The platform must further be administered by an independent entity, designated by the Attorney General, to establish and administer access to vehicle-generated data. Those amendments went into effect on January 5, 2024.

In April 2024, the Maine House of Representatives passed a bill that would have eliminated the requirement that OEMs equip vehicles with a "standardized" platform, with legislators echoing OEM concerns that members of the independent entity overseeing the platform could use it for financial gain and that a standardized platform may expose vehicle data to hackers. The Maine Senate did not take up the bill before the legislative session adjourned, however, leaving OEMs uncertain as to what the requirements will be for telematics-equipped vehicles sold in Maine after January 2025.


Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, OEMs continue to await a decision from a federal judge following a bench trial held in June 2021 on the constitutionality of amendments to that state's right to repair law (the "Data Access Law"). The amendments, overwhelmingly approved by voters in a November 2020 ballot initiative, require that manufacturers selling vehicles in Massachusetts that "utilize a telematics system," beginning with model year 2022, must equip those vehicles with a standardized, non-proprietary, open access telematics platform "across all of the manufacturer's makes and models" and make telematics data available to independent repair facilities and vehicle owners through a mobile application.

The Massachusetts Attorney General argued at trial that OEMs could comply with the Data Access Law by simply disabling the telematics systems installed in vehicles sold in Massachusetts. In June 2023, however, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it had sent a letter to OEMs notifying them that the Data Access Law "conflicts with and is therefore pre-empted by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act" and warning that disabling telematics systems "has its own adverse impacts on safety." With the bench trial having concluded nearly three years ago and no decision in sight, at least one OEM, Kia, which had disabled its telematics system in response to the Data Access Law, has recently announced that certain models purchased or sold in Massachusetts on or after May 23, 2024 are eligible to use Kia's telematics system.

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