How the Canadian Right to Repair Vehicles Is Threatened

As a vehicle owner, when you hear your “right to repair” is under threat, it might not immediately feel like an affront to a constitutional right. You might not even be sure what the phrase “Canadian right to repair” refers to. 

But if you’re the owner of an independent auto repair shop — you understand precisely what this phrase refers to. You’ve felt Canada’s right to repair get increasingly eroded year after year.

And if you’re a vehicle owner, the right to repair should be no less important to you. Continue reading to learn more about how Canada's right to repair is under threat.

We have talked extensively about the right to repair on our blog.

In this article:

What Is the “Right to Repair” Movement?

Any repair technician who works at a well-known dealership feels confident taking on any problem that comes their way. They know they have any and all technical information at their disposal. 

When they encounter a problem that necessitates additional information, they are instantly connected to individuals, manuals, and databases that are all ready to assist. However, for independent professional auto services or car owners looking to do their own repairs, this information has been purposefully made more difficult to obtain.

What Is the “Right to Repair” Law?

Canada is addressing manufacturer ethics in the context of the right to repair.  Many consumers were made aware of this issue in 2019 when Ontario Liberal MPP Michael Coteau introduced a bill that would alter the Ontario consumer protection act —  Bill 72. The bill proposed amendments to address the intersection of electronic technology and automobile mechanics. 

Coteau presented the following written argument for the Canadian right to repair: “Without the right to repair, consumers will continue to be forced to pay the original manufacturer’s exorbitant prices or to throw away damaged products because the cost of fixing the item is prohibitive. This is an unnecessary expense for consumers, a wasteful harm to our environment, and it limits opportunities for small-business repair shops.”

In an outcome that hasn’t boded well for owners and independent repair personnel, the bill was voted down, despite a telling country-wide survey revealing that 75 percent of all Canadians want to see this type of legislation in place.

Check out our previous article on Canadian right-to-repair legislation.

The Current State of “Right to Repair”

With the failure of Bill 72, Canada's right to repair was a major political topic by the end of 2019. When Covid arrived, the focus shifted because constituents were preoccupied with a variety of other issues. Now, two years later, as the pandemic has begun to fade, the question remains whether the concern will regain traction.

For independent professional auto repair services, the challenge lies in how so many new-model vehicles come equipped with electronic components that require specialized programming knowledge to address. If, for instance, an electronic parking brake system won’t engage, the problem may lie within a control module. 

However, module rebuilders are no longer given any information on how to perform the necessary repair. The only solutions are to source a new part or have the vehicle owner pay the full price for a new one. This is a lose-lose for every party other than the car maker.

Further Difficulties With “Right to Repair”

To make matters even more complicated, if the owner chooses to buy a used part, a professional auto repair mechanic frequently encounters the issue where the vehicle's internal computer does not recognize the replacement part. Even when the most advanced electronic repair services are called in to assist, even the most skilled technicians are forced to throw up their hands and say "take it to the dealer."

Manufacturers are, of course, doing their best to make sure that all repairs, replacements, and upgrades come directly from them. When a consumer doesn’t have a choice in where they can turn for these parts and services, they also don’t have a choice in how much they’ll be paying for them.

Check out our blog for more insightful articles on all things automobile-related.

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As the law currently has it, the Right to Repair infringes upon the intellectual property of the manufacturers, covered under the Copyright Act in Canada.
The 3C’s represent confidence, cost and convenience when deciding where to go for routine car maintenance.
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Eric Smith
Right To Repair Advocate
A DIY geek, Eric combines his passion for automobiles and his deep engagement with right to repair issues to empower vehicle owners everywhere.