A National Right-To-Repair Bill Has Been Filed In Congress But Its Impact On Cars Is Unknown

A national right-to-repair law would change the game, but car owners may have to wait

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A bill introduced to Congress last week promises to make life a lot easier for those who want to repair their own devices. The Fair Repair Act would require manufacturers to provide access to the tools and parts necessary for a successful device repair. However, there is one catch: it doesn’t mention cars.

Democratic Congressman from New York, Joe Morelle introduced this legislation last week and, if passed, it would be a game changer in device repair. However, curiously missing thus far is any mention of cars, which also face many of the same repair challenges as smartphones and computers.

The modern car can be fairly complex. A number of parts work together to get you and the vehicle from point A to point B safely. This is all great until a part — especially one connected to one of the car’s computers — fails. If you’re lucky, you can just replace the part and be on your way. If not, you may run into an issue where you need to use a special tool or a diagnostic machine that only the dealership has.

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Various states have their own right-to-repair bills with the New York Senate most recently passing the Digital Fair Repair Act.

However, that act specifically excludes motor vehicles from the legislation. In the past, Congressman Morelle authored another right-to-repair bill in New York that again, specifically excluded cars. If the national Fair Repair Act includes similar language then it’s not so great news for car owners out there.

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Owners of farming equipment face even stronger headwinds as manufacturers like John Deere try to lock down the vehicles as much as possible. It looks like this national bill does cover farming equipment and it has the support of New York Farm Bureau President, David Fisher. The bill also has support from pro-right-to-repair sites like iFixit.

And, if passed, Vice reports, it carries penalties for companies that refuse to comply:

The Fair Repair Act does more than force the manufacturer’s hand, it punishes them if they don’t comply. “This bill allows for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to penalize those who violate these provisions through civil penalties including payment of damages, reformation of contracts, and refund of money or property,” Morelle said in a press release. “It also empowers the FTC to promulgate any rules or regulations necessary to carry out these enforcement duties. The Fair Repair Act authorizes state attorneys general to enforce the bill’s provisions as well.”

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I’ve reached out to Congressman Morelle’s office in hopes of getting clarification about if it covers cars. I’ll update if I hear back.