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Used car imports ruled out

Healthy competition: The Harper review of competition policy was handed down in late March but the federal government delayed its response because of the change of prime minister.

Automotive industry still concerned about potential parallel new-car imports

25 Nov 2015

THE Australian automotive industry has welcomed a government decision to rule out the possibility of mass imports of used cars, but is still concerned about the government’s intentions towards the parallel importing of new vehicles.

In addition, there is concern over the government’s move to defer a decision on whether the Competition and Consumer Act should be strengthened in relation to competitive behaviour by large corporations.

The decision to rule out imports of used cars was included in the government’s response to the Competition Policy Review by Professor Ian Harper. The report was released in March, but the response was delayed by the change in prime minister from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull.

Treasurer Scott Morrison released the government’s response to the Harper Review this week.

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) was happy to see the government apparently rule out used-car imports.

“It has been ruled out of competition policy, clearly, by the government not supporting (the Harper Review recommendation) and we welcome that,” said MTAA chief executive officer Richard Dudley.

“But it has also been considered as part of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act review as well,” he said, indicating that he did not think the matter had been closed yet.

Mr Dudley was also quick to point out that the parallel importing of new vehicles was not covered by the Harper Review or by yesterday’s government response.

80 center imageLeft: MTAA CEO Richard Dudley.

“We will now work very hard to understand what that means in terms of implications for new cars, because it is still not clear to us whether they have made the decision unilaterally on new-car parallel imports as well.”

New-car parallel imports were suggested by the-then assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development Jamie Briggs who had responsibility for a review of the Motor Vehicle Standards Act (MVSA).

“The Harper Competition Review only dealt with the used motor vehicle issue and, really, the new-car option came up during consultations and discussion papers in regards to the review of the MVSA, so we have had two government reviews going on.

“We’ve had success with one today with used cars and we have to make sure that is going to apply as well to new cars.”

Mr Dudley said the MTAA was also concerned about the deferral of a decision on whether to strengthen Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act.

Professor Harper has included an “effects test” in Section 46 of the CCA to protect small business from unconscionable behavior.

Mr Dudley said the MTAA was still holding its breath on the issue of the effects test, which it supports.

“We are strong supporters of an effects test, and strongly believe that it should be put in place and I’ll be working very hard to make sure government hears our views on that issue as well.

“The government has said they have not made a decision on it at this stage and they are going to consult further.

“We welcome the further consultation and we will be putting a very strong case, along with everybody else in small business, that the effects test should be implemented.”

The effects test would provide a framework that could be used to determine whether the behavior of a large corporation was simply competitive or whether it was meant to be destructive or injurious to a smaller company.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA), which represents the state and territory-based car clubs and motoring associations around the country, said that it was pleased that the government was still considering whether motorists should own the data their cars produce.

The government has asked the motor industry peak bodies to consider how best to treat vehicle-generated data and who should have access to it.

“The AAA is particularly pleased the government has committed to working with consumer groups to allow consumers to access and use their own vehicle data to improve choice in the marketplace,” AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said.

“From a motorist’s perspective, communications and telematics technologies have progressed rapidly in recent years and there is a need to ensure that vehicle manufacturers are not able to restrict access to data or leave consumers worse off.

“The AAA believes that data captured and stored within a vehicle’s own electronic systems should be made available to the owner of that vehicle, or a third party nominated by the owner, such as their preferred vehicle repairer or roadside assistance provider.”

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