The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has welcomed a Federal Government inquiry into data sharing between vehicle manufacturers and the independent aftermarket.
This initiative by Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Treasurer on Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs David Bradbury is a major step forward for the AAAA Choice of Repairer campaign which aims to create a level playing field enabling consumers to freely choose between dealer supplied parts and service, or independent aftermarket parts and service.
Launched in April 2009, the AAAA Choice of Repairer campaign is the independent aftermarket's response to the increasing difficulty that aftermarket service businesses face in obtaining from vehicle manufacturers and their authorised dealers the critical information (technical manuals, update bulletins, silent recall information, software patches, tools, etc) required to repair and maintain the complex vehicles we are starting to see in dealer showrooms.
"This inquiry signals the Federal Government’s acknowledgement that withholding critical data required to work with the sophisticated technologies being built into the next generation of vehicles is a consumer rights issue," said AAAA Executive Director Stuart Charity.
"The question has become: 'Who owns the vehicle - the owner, or the manufacturer and dealer?'. Clearly, owners have the right to have their vehicles serviced and repaired with fit for the purpose accessories, parts and systems by any qualified technician," said Stuart Charity.
Controlling access to information about the technologies in vehicles seriously impacts both the:
- Mechanical repair sector needing information about electronic settings and adjustments to a growing range of components, from engine management systems, to traction control and electronic stability control settings.
- Crash repair sector needing information about steels, plastics and other materials used in the vehicles' body structure and outer panels.
Positive step for vehicle owners
The inquiry ordered by David Bradbury will be conducted by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC), an independent expert panel that provides the Government with advice on competition and consumer policy issues.
The CCAAC will prepare and circulate an issues paper on access to vehicle data. Then it will call for stakeholder submissions before making a recommendation to Government. David Bradbury expects the review and final recommendations to be completed by the end of this year. The CCAAC was responsible for the review into statutory warranties, which resulted in the introduction of the new Australian Consumer Law earlier this year.
“While this is only the start of the process from the Government perspective, it is a necessary step prior to the Government taking any action - regulatory, legislative, or otherwise - and is a positive step for vehicle owners and the automotive aftermarket that services over 65% of the vehicles on Australian roads," said Stuart Charity.
Level playing field for industry
Stuart Charity emphasised that the automotive aftermarket does not expect to get data free of charge. "We know authorised dealers must pay the manufacturers for the information, special equipment and tools required to service and repair their vehicles," he said.
"All we are seeking is a level playing field. Independent aftermarket operators expect to pay to get the data they need on the same terms as the dealerships. We are not demanding the release of the vehicle makers' intellectual property. We require exactly the same information they currently make available to their dealers.
"The Choice of Repairer concept has long been embedded in the minds of Australian vehicle owners. Both regional and metropolitan areas have a strong tradition of choosing aftermarket parts and small family owned workshops.
"The Choice of Repairer campaign is important to the future of thousands of aftermarket parts suppliers employing over 30,000 people, and the estimated 15,000 independent aftermarket workshops across Australia employing hundreds of thousands more," said Stuart Charity.
Access to vehicle maintenance and repair data is also an international issue and Right to Repair campaigns in Europe and the USA are achieving significant advances to facilitate customer choice in the service and repair of vehicles. Those campaigns have championed the environmental benefits of enabling all vehicle service and repair providers to access correct vehicle emissions data.
About the AAAA Choice of Repairer Campaign
The aim of the Choice of Repairer campaign is to protect choice and competition in vehicle repair, servicing and replacement parts sectors by eliminating any technical or legal barriers that impact on the Australian consumers’ rights to have their vehicle serviced, maintained and repaired in a timely manner, at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice.
About the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association Limited (AAAA):
The AAAA is the national industry association representing manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, importers and retailers of automotive parts and accessories, tools and equipment in Australia. The Association has over 1,300 member companies in all categories of the Australian automotive aftermarket and includes major national and multi-national corporations as well as a large number of independent small and medium size businesses. Member companies are located in metropolitan, regional and rural Australia.
AAAA Communication Advisor
M: 0413 185 135