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Government leans on car-makers to data-share

Data watch: David Bradbury discusses data-sharing issues with members of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association at a meeting in his electorate in western Sydney earlier this year.

Non-dealer workshops gain minister’s support to free up diagnostic software

General News logo11 Jun 2013

A CODE of conduct spelling out what data car-makers should share with independent repairers and service centres has gained ministerial support.

Assistant treasurer David Bradbury has backed a code of conduct that would spell out how car-makers should release closely held data needed by independent operators.

In what is likely to be another setback for franchised dealers, Mr Bradbury also said it was not necessary for owners to return to dealer-run workshops to preserve a car’s warranty.

“I will be asking the nation’s consumer affairs officials to develop an awareness campaign to educate consumers about their warranty rights,” Mr Bradbury said in a statement.

“Under the Australian consumer law, suppliers have a legal obligation to guarantee the quality of goods and services.

“Any suggestion by car manufacturers that cars need to be serviced at a licensed dealer to maintain the owner’s consumer guarantee rights is not correct,” he said.

Mr Bradbury said that while he favored industry self-regulation to ensure access to data, the government would stand ready to intervene if nothing was resolved by the end of this year.

He said consumers and repairers had been frustrated about the lack of access to technical information, forcing more owners to take their cars to dealerships for servicing.

“Consumers should have the right to choose where they take their cars for service and repair,” Mr Bradbury said.

He was responding to the recommendations of the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC), which urged the industry to develop a process that would allow access to the data for independent service centres and repairers.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which represents Australian car makers and importers, is drawing up a code of conduct.

Mr Bradbury said it was expected that significant progress on the code should be made by the end of this year.

He appointed CCAAC chairman Colin Neave to monitor progress and make an interim report within the next few months.

The official government response to the CCAAC recommendations indicated that an industry-led outcome should ensure consumers had access to repair services at reasonable prices now and into the future.

“The Australian government also encourages the automotive industry to consider the other issues noted by the CCAAC in its report, including the accessibility of repair services in rural and regional areas,” it said.

The industry was encouraged to seek guidance on the code of conduct from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which promotes competition and fair trade in Australia.

“If access to repair information becomes a barrier to competition in the market for repairs and the automotive repair industry has not been able to arrive at an effective industry solution to address such concerns, the government will consider relevant regulatory options, including a mandatory code of conduct,” the document says.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) claimed Mr Bradbury’s support of a code of conduct as an endorsement of the “Choice of Repairer” campaign it started in 2009.

“The AAAA introduced the Choice of Repairer campaign to protect choice and competition in the vehicle repair and service sector by eliminating any technical or legal barriers that impact on the Australian consumer’s right to have their vehicle serviced and repaired at competitive prices in the workshop of their choice,” AAAA executive director Stuart Charity said.

“We congratulate assistant treasurer Bradbury for recognising the need to address this important consumer issue and his leadership in facilitating a solution.

“The AAAA looks forward to continuing to work with CCAAC chair Colin Neave … to develop the voluntary code. We want to ensure that all Australian vehicle owners maintain their right to choose who services their vehicle in an open and competitive market,” Mr Charity said.

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