Federal Minister for Small Business, the Hon Bruce Billson MP, has confirmed the need for protection of car owners’ rights to choose their preferred repairer through an industry-led code of practice to facilitate the sharing of vital vehicle repair and service data.
In a productive meeting on 16 January between Minister Billson and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), the Minister indicated his intention to ensure that the recommendations made in the recent Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) Inquiry into vehicle data sharing are fully implemented.
The CCAAC inquiry found that by restricting repair information to only their authorised dealership networks, car companies have the power to reduce competition within the automotive repair industry, limiting consumer choice.
The CCAAC called for an industry code of practice to facilitate data sharing between car makers and independent automotive repairers to allow the independent workshops access to the data they need to effectively diagnose faults and service modern vehicles.
AAAA Executive Director Stuart Charity said Minister Billson has a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues involved in automotive data sharing. “He also recognises that, as vehicles become more technologically advanced, the need for a code of conduct covering automotive service and repair data sharing becomes more urgent,” Stuart Charity said.
Since launching its Choice of Repairer campaign in 2009, the AAAA has worked closely with Federal and State Governments to ensure consumer choice and competition in the automotive parts and service market is maintained.
In the meeting Minister Billson indicated that an effective code must have the input and support of all key industry stakeholders and he acknowledged the AAAA’s key role in representing the interests of the independent aftermarket.
“We welcome the Minister’s strong support for the CCAAC Inquiry recommendations and his recognition of the key role the AAAA has played in bringing these important competition issues to the attention of Government,” said Stuart Charity.
“The Australian automotive aftermarket simply wants the barriers to service and repair information eliminated so their customers’ vehicles can be kept in safe and reliable condition.
“We are not asking for access to the manufacturers’ intellectual property. And the aftermarket industry is prepared to pay a fair price for the data,” said Stuart Charity.
Data sharing overseas
This Federal Government support for an industry-led solution to facilitate vehicle data sharing aligns Australia with the USA, Canada and the European Union (EU). The EU has had regulations in place since 2002 and in 2010 they were renewed and strengthened with their Block Exemption Regulation in place until 2023.
In the USA, a voluntary code of conduct for data sharing has been in place for over 10 years and in 2012 the State of Massachusetts passed a Right to Repair bill to protect car owners. It is anticipated that the USA will shortly announce a national agreement on vehicle data sharing, which mirrors the provisions included in the Massachusetts bill.
Stuart Charity said these overseas arrangements include the same vehicle producers that supply the Australian market.
“Minister Billson has committed to working with the AAAA and other industry stakeholders to ensure an effective industry code of practice is developed. AAAA members across the country thank him for that commitment and his valuable input in our meeting.
“We now look forward to engaging with the car companies and other stakeholders to create that code of practice,” said Stuart Charity.