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‘Right to Repair’ passage puts new law in question

Massachusetts voters ­resoundingly passed the “Right to Repair” ballot question, meaning the new law requiring automakers to provide independent repair shops as well as dealers with easy access to the computer codes needed to diagnose complex car problems will need to be reconciled with compromise legislation passed after the ballots were approved.

Legislators could also decide to reapprove the compromise. The regulations are the first of their kind in the nation.

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Under the ballot legislation, automakers are required to make diagnostic and repair infor­mation available to independent shops and dealers through a universal system by 2015. The compromise legislation, passed in July, gives automakers until 2018 to comply with new regulations.

Following that compromise, voters were initially urged to skip Question 1. But in recent weeks, AAA of Southern New England and other supporters began encouraging residents to cast a yes vote to ensure that Massachusetts consumers would have more choice when choosing who repairs their cars.

“We considered telling people to skip the question,” said Arthur Kinsman, a spokesman for the Right to Repair Committee, which backed the original effort to get the issue on Tuesday’s ballot. “The resounding response we got was that people still wanted to vote for this.”

Still, he recognized that passage of the ballot question creates issues, including what types of vehicles will be regulated by the law, what kind of penalties manufacturers will face if they do not comply, and what the deadline will be.

“We promised the Legislature we would work with them on any reconciliation that may take place,” Kinsman said. Still he said, the margin of victory proves similar bills should be passed in other states.

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Opponents of the “Right to Repair” ballot question decried passage of the issue, saying it “creates confusion and uncertainty for automakers, ­repairers, and consumers.”

They say that complying with the new regulation by 2015 would be too onerous for most manufacturers and would probably result in higher sticker prices for cars. On Tuesday night, Daniel Gage, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, one of the industry groups opposing the original Right to Repair bill, said they would ask legislators to reapprove the compromise.

“Automakers continue to support the negotiated Right to Repair compromise — previously agreed to by all parties — that became law prior to the election,” Gage said in a statement.

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