On February 4, 2022, automotive and industry critic MP Brian Masse (Windsor West) tabled a new right-to-repair bill in Parliament to protect Canadian automotive car owners’ choice when having their own vehicle repaired. An earlier Bill C-272 was introduced in 2021 by Liberal MP Brian May, but it died on the floor after the Liberals called an election in September 2021.
Bill C-244 would allow consumers to have their vehicle fixed where they would like, at a fair cost, and with the proper tools and parts as available by the manufacturers to authorized dealers. Critics of the bill argue that one of the major problems with right to repair is that the person making the repairs might be falling afoul of the Copyright Act, especially if they have to break a password, digital lock, or tamper with the digital rights management (DRM) system in order to conduct this repair. They argue that right to repair can stifle innovation. There is a considerable amount of upfront investment, and by allowing untethered access to proprietary software, there is a risk that data might get into the wrong hands. Manufacturers know this and may well want to use the threat of “security” as a means to make repairs harder or even impossible.
Right to repair & safety
The importance of right to repair is about more than just affordable repairs. It has implications for road safety and the environment. Recently, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government set out a mandatory target for all new light-duty cars and passenger trucks to be zero-emission by 2035, down from an earlier goal of 2040. In order to meet demand, recent investments by General Motors and Ford Motor have been made to boost the EV parts manufacturing industry. For over 100 years, parts manufacturers have been making parts for internal combustion vehicles (engines and transmissions). EVs require many new types of parts and servicing. Vehicle components are quickly becoming more digitalized, and manufacturers are working harder to protect their repair programs. Moving towards electric and away from fossil fuels will affect not only the way that repairs are made but also the way these vehicles are dismantled and recycled.
Bill C-244 is not just about automobiles
Bill C-244 is much broader in its scope, encompassing everything from farm equipment to cell phones. This legislation supports consumers, provides choices, protects the environment by keeping car emissions low and vehicles and parts out of landfills, and supports public safety by ensuring vehicles on the road are in the best working condition and can be repaired as soon as possible.
Currently, there is a voluntary agreement in place between manufacturers and aftermarket and independent vehicle repair shops. Masse previously had a similar bill that successfully passed through Parliament in 2009 on right to repair. However, before it was through the Senate, the aftermarket dealers came to a voluntary agreement, which is still in place today. We know this agreement today as the Canadian Automotive Service Information Standard (CASIS).
However, with Canada committed to mandating that all new light-duty vehicles sold be zero-emission by 2035, we can expect that manufacturers will change how they share this information, including the information that they are willing to share with aftermarket repair shops. Tesla, for example, is not a signatory to CASIS, and if we have car companies like Tesla opting out of this with no consequences, the future of CASIS as a voluntary agreement seems problematic.
While copyright is a federal reasonability, there are things the provinces can do such as ensuring that manufacturers don’t make products that are designed to be obsolete and end up in landfills. Reuse and repair are to be preferred over recycling, and manufacturers must take an active role in ensuring the economic and environmental sustainability of their products.
On April 8, 2022, Bill C-244 moved into its second reading, making it one step closer to becoming law.
Right to Repair petition hits House of Commons
This petition, supported by MP Brian Masse (Windsor-West), advocates for the rights of consumers to allow independent repair shops access to their data for the fixing of their vehicles.
The Government of Canada has 45 days to respond to the AIA Canada’s formal petition.