During a policy meeting yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) unanimously voted to ramp up law enforcement against illegal repair restrictions. Catherine Boland, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association (“MEMA”), commented on behalf of AASA during the hearing in support of the automotive aftermarket’s fight for appropriate access to vehicle data.
“Contrary to what vehicle manufacturers claim, independent aftermarket vehicle service can be completed in a safe and cybersecure fashion. We applaud the findings and recommendations in the Nixing the Fix report and thank the FTC for today’s policy statement that will ensure that vehicle owners will continue to be able to choose where to repair their vehicles,” commented Catherine Boland in the July 21, 2021 policy meeting. “We also urge the FTC to consider what additional statutory authority may be necessary to protect consumer choice in repair and work with Congress to seek those legislative changes. Independent aftermarket service must remain a viable option. We look forward to working with policymakers to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties.”
In a July 16, 2021 letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, Paul McCarthy, President and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (“AASA”) urged, “…the FTC to consider what specific additional statutory authority is needed to ensure that consumers can continue to choose where and how to seek vehicle repair, maintenance and service as vehicles become more technically advanced. Legislation is necessary to ensure that the FTC’s authority remains current as vehicle technology continues to evolve. Such guidance will assist Congress as it deliberates on legislation to further enhance consumer protections.”
Yesterday’s FTC meeting comes on the heels of President’s Biden’s June 2021 Executive Order to establish new rules making it easier and cheaper for consumers to repair items they own – including their vehicles. The executive order includes 72 specific initiatives including a call for the Federal Trade Commission initiate a rulemaking on repair and maintenance. AASA and MEMA have been advocating on behalf of the industry in Washington and urging the administration and Congress to act on this issue, including additional legislative direction for increased consumer protection authority at the FTC.
In May 2021, the FTC submitted a report to Congress identifying anti-competitive repair restrictions, parts limitations, and inaccessible software specially in the vehicle manufacturing and mobile phone repair and maintenance. The report notes that, “there is scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions.” The FTC findings are in lock step with what AASA and MEMA have been advocating for on behalf of the aftermarket.