AAAA: Automotive Right to Repair law another step closer
The Australian consumer is the big winner from today’s announcement by the Federal Government (https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2020-128289) of the intention to introduce The Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme to Parliament in early 2021.
Following nearly a decade of campaigning by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), the new law will make it illegal for car companies to withhold information from qualified independent mechanics – keeping the cost of replacement parts, vehicle maintenance and repair affordable.
There is a short consultation period – as previously outlined by the Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who has been the prime mover behind introducing the law. Consultation finishes at the end of January with the law expected to come into effect
The CEO of the AAAA, Stuart Charity, said the law had been a long time coming but will be welcome news for the automotive industry.
“We started campaigning for this law a decade ago and have been through two government inquiries and even through a voluntary agreement in 2014 which was a complete failure,” he said.
The new law is designed to provide a fairer playing field for the repair and service of the 74 automotive brands available in Australia in an industry worth $25 billion annually. The law will compel car manufacturers to share all mechanical repair and service information with the independent auto repair sector on “fair and reasonable commercial terms”.
“Open competition means competitive pricing – and the consumer will be the ultimate winner,” Mr Charity said.
“Today’s decision is testament to the strength and ongoing commitment of our industry to battle for so long to have the law changed.
“We look forward to analysing the draft law and thank all the AAAA members for their steadfast campaigning to get us to this point.
“We also want to thank Minister Sukkar for his work. He has personally steered this through Government, and we thank him for his leadership.”
Mr Charity said when the law passes everyone wins. “Open competition means affordable car repair and service. The economy improves too as local qualified mechanics invest in new tools and equipment to access diagnostic and repair data.
“The car industry also improves their service levels because they must try harder to win service and repair work and not rely on artificially manipulating and tying up the market.
“This is not about favouring any one sector: The independent repair sector wants more, not less competition. When consumers have full and free choice of repairers, our markets operate efficiently, and will reward the best car companies, dealerships, independents, parts suppliers, and service providers.”
Mr Charity said he expected the change to be welcomed by consumer groups, independent repairers and dealers seeking to diversify their servicing options.
“We do expect the car industry will continue to argue that there is no market failure and no need for government intervention. This in in spite of a specific recommendation by the ACCC that the Government introduce a mandatory scheme to force car companies to share service and repair data.
“The car companies will argue this is a breach of intellectual property – an argument rejected in the EU, in South Africa and in the US.
“They will also argue that this is threat to safety and security, which it is not.
“Both the US and EU data sharing models have proven systems in place to protect the security and integrity of vehicle repair and service information and preparations are well- advanced to roll out a tailored version of the US model in Australia
“As with all right to repair issues, the security and safety argument is simply an excuse used to justify the withholding of information for the lifetime of the car.
“This legislation will protect consumers, protect competition, and support the Australian community’s deep desire to buy local as we all work to support economic recovery post COVID-19.
“Over the past 10 years, the car importers have claimed that all of the required information was available via the internet. According to this line of argument, all the required data is available – if the repairer is willing to pay for it. Interestingly, this is the same argument that immediately preceded legislated solutions in other comparable markets.
“The ACCC investigated a sample of complaints and found that the case for lack of repair and service data sharing was clearly proven. After an 18-month inquiry the ACCC recommended government action – either a stand-alone law or a mandatory industry code.”
Mr Charity said issues relating to access to vehicle repair and service information is a global phenomenon.
“America, Canada and Europe have determined that access to repair and
service information by the independent aftermarket is a pre-requisite to fair competition, transport affordability, road safety, and clean air.
“There are different solutions employed by different countries to address what is essentially a failure of the market to ensure that price, quality, supply and demand can find the equilibrium that occurs within markets that do not have unfair competition produced by the abuse of technological and market power and supply chain dominance.