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Mandatory data-sharing to be law

Industry fix: The Australian government will draw up legislation for mandatory sharing of vehicle service and repair information with independent repairers.

Win for independent auto repairers as government announces data share scheme

30 Oct 2019

THE federal government has announced it will push ahead with mandatory data-sharing laws in a victory for independent vehicle repairers who have waged a 12-year battle for the key to a bigger share of Australia’s $25 billion auto service and repair business.


The decision means car manufacturers must make available for purchase all service and repair information to independent repairers in the same form as it is shared with their franchised dealership networks.


The mandatory system was recommended by Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), in 2017 after it found that the current voluntary system was ineffective.


Because motor vehicles have increasing relied on electronics, software and complex diagnostics for a wide range of functions and service, independent repairers found that they were finding it more difficult to compete with authorised dealerships without access to the required data from manufacturers.


Federal assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar made the announcement yesterday after meeting with five industry organisations with a stake in the process.


“Our scheme will mandate that all service and repair information car manufacturers share with their dealership networks must be available for independent repairers to purchase,” he said.


“It will also remove grey areas in the current voluntary arrangements by explicitly setting out a list of safety, security and environmental information that must only be released to appropriate businesses as well as clear criteria for access.”


Mr Sukkar said the scheme would include “robust dispute resolution processes”.


He foreshadowed an industry-led body to help design and administer the scheme as well as deal with dispute resolution.


No timetable for the drafting of legislation and subsequent introduction of the scheme was announced, nor any mention of penalties for breaches of the legislation.


One of the most vocal advocates for a mandatory data-sharing scheme, Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) CEO Stuart Charity, described the announcement as a landmark for the Australian vehicle service and repair industry.


“This is an incredible result for our members, who came to us with their concerns, put competitive rivalries aside and fought alongside us to have the law changed for their customers, their businesses and the wider industry,” he said.


“It is also an important win for consumers. Our Choice of Repairer campaign has sought to increase community awareness around consumers right to choose their repairer and their new-car warranty and servicing rights.”


But while Mr Charity revelled in the decision to introduce a mandatory scheme, he indicated the battle was not yet over.


“We look forward to seeing progress on an exposure draft (of legislation) and we will review every word to ensure that car manufacturers are not able to wriggle through any loopholes that would prevent or restrict consumer choice and ultimately harm competition,” he said.


The mandatory data scheme was sought by several major auto industry bodies, including Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA), Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) and Australian Automobile Association (AAA).


In its findings two years ago, the ACCC was scathing in its assessment of the motor manufacturers’ voluntary data-sharing scheme, saying most manufacturers were not sharing the information in a timely, fair and efficient way.


The ACCC recommended 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.”

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