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Car repair bill goes to House

Fate of plan passed by Senate is unclear

Legislation that would give independent auto mechanics in Massachusetts access to repair data and diagnostic codes now available only to dealerships will move to the House of Representatives after gaining Senate approval Thursday night with little discussion. But it is unclear whether the so-called Right to Repair bill will win approval there and be sent to Governor Deval Patrick, who has yet to take a position on it.

Multiple versions of the heavily lobbied Right to Repair bill have been considered by state legislators over recent years, but it has stalled.

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In the meantime, supporters are collecting signatures in an effort to put the issue directly before voters.

“Until a bill is on the governor’s desk and signed, we’re still reserving the right to take it to the ballot and [are] actively out there getting signatures,” said Art Kinsman, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, a group of independent mechanics and auto parts manufacturers.

State representative Garrett Bradley, a Hingham Democrat who sponsored a version of the Right to Repair bill that is still in committee, said he hopes legislators can come to a compromise before the “very complex” issue is simplified into a ballot question.

“I think the chances of the bill in the House are good,” Bradley said, but it is likely that the version of the bill passed by the Senate would need to be revised to address concerns from the auto industry and others.

The current bill would require automakers to make their repair data and diagnostic tools available for purchase at a fair price by car owners and independent mechanics. On Jan. 1, 2016, automakers would also have to make that repair data accessible through a nonproprietary computer system or device within a vehicle.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade association for some of the world’s largest automakers, has steadfastly opposed the legislation.

Dan Gage, a group spokesman, said it has been working with state lawmakers to come up with a compromise, but “some very serious concerns remain.”

Specifically, Gage said, the alliance worries that the proposed legislation threatens intellectual property rights, and could compromise online security of the data, putting consumers at risk.

Supporters, meanwhile, argue the legislation would make it easier for independent mechanics and car owners to fix their own vehicles, and avoid higher prices at dealerships.

While Patrick has supported similar bills in the past, spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said the administration has not decided whether to endorse this legislation.

“We’ll review it when it gets to his desk,” McGilpin said.

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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