The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

New Jersey Assembly Passes Right-to-Repair Act

November 13, 2008

TRENTON, NJ --- The New Jersey Assembly on Oct. 28 passed the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (AB 803), a bill seeking to give independent auto repair shops access to service information now only privy to car manufacturers and their dealers.

The legislation would open up certain technical information needed to make car repairs, such as access codes to a car's computer, now available only to car dealers and manufacturers. Though some of this information is available to independent repair shops at a price from manufacturers, some data can be withheld due to proprietary information claims. As a result, bill supporters say, car owners have no choice but to seek repairs from the car dealers.

New Jersey became the first state to pass right-to-repair legislation in one of its legislative houses. A similar measure sits in the state Senate, but no action is planned.

A federal bill, introduced back in 2001, is pending in the House of Representatives.

The New Jersey bill has drawn opposition from the Automotive Service Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association. Supporters of the bill include the Alliance of Aftermarket Service Providers of New Jersey, AAA, the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association, Citizen's Action and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) said the bill is aimed at giving car owners more repair options. "We want to have good competition, a fair playing field, and to have a person's choice to bring it to the dealership or to somebody in the neighborhood," Gusciora told the Asbury Park Press.

The bill passed 49 to 22, with eight abstentions. Lawmakers voting against the measure expressed concerns with a section of the bill that they say would allow for knock-off parts makers to attain information needed to build their own parts. The passage in question says information that has to be disclosed includes "information necessary to integrate replacement equipment into the vehicle."

James Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, said: "The only reason why you would need that information, which is not currently available, is if you wanted to build replacement parts faster and cheaper."

Sandy Bass-Cors, executive director for the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, disagrees. "When a person purchases a piece of property, whether it's a house or a car, that person should be able to make a decision on that property on where and by whom to have it repaired," said Bass-Cors.

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