Computers play an increasingly important role under the hood of our cars, which can make repairing your ride a nightmare. Troubleshooting and repairing problems requires specialized equipment and - more importantly - diagnostic codes that automakers jealously protect. That means you’re usually stuck going to a dealership and paying through the nose for repairs.
Congress wants to change that.
The Right-to-Repair Act would allow independent repair shops to compete for business that currently goes only to franchises and dealer-approved establishments. The bipartisan bill, introduced in the House of Representatives, would drastically increase the number of shops that could service late-model vehicles and make those repairs significantly cheaper.
By limiting the number of shops that can service your car, dealers drive up the cost to owners of those vehicles by 34 percent, according to a study Lang Research conducted for the Automotive After Market Industry Association. The study found consumers pay $11.7 billion in excess costs annually.
That is unacceptable.
As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes, the legislation points to a broader problem: How the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it difficult to do everything from repair computers to replace your garage door opener. DMCA prohibits bypassing or circumventing “technological protection measures.”
“The issue goes beyond the importance of being able to get independent repair and maintenance services,” EFF writes. “The use of technological ‘locks’ against tinkerers also threatens user innovation - the kinds of innovation that traditionally have come from independent tinkerers - which has increasingly been recognized as an important part of economic growth and technological improvement.”
The EFF is right in saying we need more than a right-to-repair law for cars. We need one for most of the stuff we own.