Washington, D.C., — The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is preparing to hold a markup for the Motor Vehicle Right to Repair Act (H.R. 2048). This small-business owner and consumer friendly legislation, which is expected to be considered this year, will make it mandatory for automobile manufacturers to disclose to car buyers and independent repair shops the information needed to repair or maintain their vehicles.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB,) one of the nation's largest small-business advocacy groups, strongly supports the Right to Repair Act on behalf of its members - 24,000 of whom are small and independent repair shops across the country.
In a recent e-mail survey of NFIB members who own independent garages, 78 percent of those responding report that they have been forced to turn customers away or refer them to a manufacturer-owned dealership because they were unable to get the repair information necessary to fix the car. In an effort to keep their customers, 44 percent of the repair shops surveyed report that they have paid a dealer technician to get access to the undisclosed manufacturer information. This under-the-table practice further proves that independent shops are at a disadvantage and manufacturers are not disclosing information equally.
As the technology of on-board auto computer systems becomes more complex and manufacturers include more dealer-specific safeguards, independent repair shops are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain information from manufacturers that is needed to repair their customers' vehicles.
NFIB member Mike Sauce runs Sportscar Performance, a 26-year-old auto repair business in Arlington, Texas. Sauce spends $2,400 a year for software that is supposed to provide him with a full list of manufacturer-specific computer codes necessary to perform repairs. However, Sauce is often forced to turn away customers and refer them to dealerships because the information program does not contain a complete set of computer codes and related electronic engine information.
'There is major credibility lost when we are forced to turn a customer away because we don't have the information necessary to fix their vehicle,' says Sauce. 'Public perception of my business is tempered by my ability to handle all of their needs, and when I tell someone I can't service their vehicle the first time they come to me, then I doubt that they'll be coming back. I know customers are saying to themselves 'If they can't fix this, what else can't they do?''
Many times neither the repair business, nor the software provider, knows that the list of codes provided by the manufacturers is incomplete until the shop is nearly done with a repair and is left without one or two codes necessary to finish the job. Without legislation that requires full disclosure from manufacturers, small businesses in the auto repair and parts industry, like Mike Sauce, are kept at a severe disadvantage that only stands to increase over time.
'The most frustrating part is that this is not about having the skills – we have the skills to service every car that comes into the shop – it's about not having access to the information we need,' adds Sauce.
Few Americans are aware of the monopoly currently held by auto manufacturers and dealerships and how it affects them as consumers.
Consumers who want to bring their cars to their local auto body shop are often turned away and referred to a dealership because the shop does not have access to all of the resources needed. This subjects consumers to longer wait periods and higher prices, without the ability to compare estimates. The Right to Repair Act will allow consumers the freedom to choose where and who will service their vehicles.
NFIB strongly urges Congress to support of HR 2048. This legislation will restore fairness and equality to the auto repair industry and allow consumers the right to choose where their vehicles are serviced.