There has been a significant amount of activity taking place over recent months on the development of a Code of Practice to ensure all repairers in Australia have access on fair and reasonable terms, to all the critical technical and diagnostic information they need to repair and maintain todays technically complex vehicles.
The main stakeholder groups represented in the negotiations include the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA), the Australian Motor Industry Federation (AMIF), the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA). The negotiations are being chaired by the Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neeve who also chaired the CCAAC Inquiry into vehicle data sharing in 2012.
At the first meeting of the group held in late February, the FCAI circulated a draft Code of Practice for comment. Our view on the FCAI Draft Code, which we expressed at that initial meeting, was that the Code was clearly written by the car companies to support their commercial interests, could be amended at any time and effectively restricted the amount of repair information that is to be shared to a level that is below what is currently available. Rather than an industry-led process with wide stakeholder consultation, the FCAI Code was unilateral, biased, inadequate and out of step with the recommendations made by the CCAAC and subsequently adopted by Government.
The group then met again in late March to provide more detailed feedback on the FCAI draft Code following a period of consultation with their respective memberships. I am pleased to advise that at this meeting the AMIF, VACC, AAA and AAAA all rejected the FCAI draft Code, in its current form, as a viable and meaningful solution to the issue.
The meeting then agreed on the following next steps
- An advisory committee will be formed which will include 1 representative from FCAI, AADA, AMIF, VACC, AAAA and AAA.
- This group will progress work on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will be completed no later than 1 June 2014. This MOU will establish the fundamental principles that will be covered by the Code.
- In parallel with this, the same group will provide input into the redrafting of the Code of Practice which will need to be finalised and released by the FCAI no later than 30th August 2014.
- The next meeting to progress the MOU will be held on 16th April.
The consensus of views at the March meeting between all the stakeholders representing the various interests of the independent aftermarket industry and car owners was certainly very encouraging and I am hopeful that there is now a genuine determination by all parties to secure a meaningful agreement that strikes an even balance between the commercial interests of the various segments of our industry and most importantly protects all Australian car owners fundamental right to choose who repairs their vehicle. We will keep you updated periodically on further developments with respect to this critical industry issue.