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Motor repairers welcome ACCC push

Better access: Independent car repairers have welcomed a recommendation by the ACCC that manufacturer vehicle data should be available in real time and in the same format as provided to dealerships.

Independent repairers want fair access to the $24 billion service and repair market

10 Aug 2017

A RECOMMENDATION by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that the federal government force car-makers to share service and repair information with independent repairers has been welcomed by automotive trade associations.

The recommendation was one of several contained in a draft report from the commission into the new car retailing industry, and is expected to send shockwaves through the $24 billion service and repair side of the industry.

Both the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association and the Motor Trades Association of Australia provided valuable evidence from the field about the problems encountered by car owners and their independent repairers in accessing the required data from manufacturers.

AAAA executive director Stuart Charity said the recommendation to mandate access to data was a vindication of the AAAA’s 10-year Choice of Repairer campaign.

“Quite frankly, the car industry treated the whole process with utter contempt,” Mr Charity said, referring to the introduction of a voluntary data sharing code two years ago.

“We believed all along that this was a major issue for consumers and wouldn’t be addressed through a voluntary process. There is too much at stake commercially.”

The car-makers, through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Australian Automotive Dealer Association, were required two years ago under a heads of agreement to publish voluntary codes of conduct which would govern the provision of data to independent repairers.

“They just re-released their previous code,” Mr Charity said. “It was possible to comply with that code and still not provide any information. It was laughable.”

The ACCC reached the same conclusion in its draft report.

“Broadly, most car-manufacturers in Australia are not fully sharing technical information consistently with the aims and principles of the heads of agreement (HoA),” the commission says in its draft report.

“The HoA has several shortcomings which hinder its aims and principles of improving access to technical information from being achieved in a fair and efficient way.

“The ACCC has concluded that the net effect of the HoA, across the industry, in improving access to technical information for new cars has been limited, and that the HoA is ineffective in providing access that is consistent with its aims and principles.”

The ACCC recommends that the data should be made available in real time and in the same format as provided to franchised dealers, that there be a timely independent dispute resolution process that is binding and that there be penalties for non-compliance.

The ACCC said that security-related information – data needed to open and start the vehicle – should be released in a secure manner to accredited parties, as is done in Europe and the United States.

“Refusals by car manufacturers to supply security-related parts for repair and service will be monitored and addressed through action by the ACCC, including enforcement action where appropriate.”

Mr Charity said 325 service and repair outlets servicing 10,000 vehicles a week had been surveyed.

He said the increasingly technical nature of new vehicles meant that 11 per cent of the vehicles being serviced were now presenting a problem in that the required data was not easily available.

That proportion was expected to grow to 30 or 40 per cent in the next year or so as 2012 models come out of warranty.

“The majority of problems were resolved but they involved an additional four hours of labour on each car and almost none of that was passed on to the consumer,” Mr Charity said.

“The workshops were having to go online, ring around, do work-arounds, take cars to dealerships and pay money, $300, say, to have a code put in.

“All these workarounds were adding cost and labor and the overwhelming majority wasn’t passed on. How do you tell a car owner that they will have to pay an extra $400 for this service because I couldn’t get the information I needed?“All this had productivity, profitability and viability implications for workshops. Basically, it would be death by 1000 cuts (if access was not mandated).”

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA), which represents state MTAs and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), also welcomed the recommendation to mandate access to repair information.

MTAA chief executive Richard Dudley said the MTAs had done a lot of field work in the two years since the HoA was signed to gather information on specific problems and try to introduce improvements in access.

The MTAA is in a unique position as the members of its state MTAs and the VACC include both franchised dealers and independent repairers.

Mr Dudley said the MTAA had provided a “balanced and pragmatic” input to the ACCC study aimed at improving consumer choice, enhanced fair competition and greater certainty to all industry participants.

“We now look forward to continuing that leadership by working with the ACCC, Government and willing members of the industry to cement the recommendation into action,” he said.

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