Auto repair

Maine’s Independent Auto Repair Shops Pursue Right to Repair Referendum

Mike Higgins of Mike Higgins Auto, left, works to install a splash field on a vehicle in Kittery on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A group of Maine independent auto repair shop owners, their employees and supporters have filed a Citizens’ Initiative Request with the Office of the Secretary of State announcing their intention to seek a nationwide referendum vote. State in 2023 that would protect their right to repair new cars and trucks.

The Right to Repair campaign says more than 90% of new cars are equipped to transmit real-time diagnostic and repair information wirelessly only to automakers, a tactic right to repair advocates say threatens consumer rights to choose to get the cars they own repaired at an independent repair shop or even to do the work themselves.

The secretary of state’s office confirmed that supporters of the right to repair initiative filed documents, including a bill, on Wednesday.

Emily Cook, spokeswoman for the secretary of state, said the group’s application is being reviewed by the Maine reviewer’s office, which will have 15 business days to provide a draft of the initiative for review by the candidates.

Mike Higgins of Mike Higgins Auto adds power steering fluid to a vehicle while working in his garage in Kittery on Wednesday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

If the draft is acceptable, the state will provide a copy of the draft to the Office of Fiscal and Program Review, which has an additional 15 days to develop a tax note. The final step will involve the Secretary of State’s office preparing the petition language.

Once the petition is published, right to repair supporters will conduct a petition campaign with the aim of having the initiative put on the November 2023 ballot as a referendum question. The initiative would not go to a referendum if the Legislative Assembly decides to approve the proposed legislation before November 2023.

“Maine needs to pass a right to repair law because wireless technologies take away the car owner’s right to have their vehicle repaired at their local independent shop because the automaker prefers to direct them to their expensive dealership” , Tim Winkeler, president and CEO of VIP Tires & Auto Service in Auburn, said in a statement.

“Automakers are increasingly using technology to try to stop us from fixing the latest models of cars and trucks,” Winkeler said.

This story will be updated.

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