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DATA sharing of OEM service and repair information for independent repairers and funding to implement the process are expected to become legislation after Canberra adopted industry demands for an open environment to benefit motorists and service providers.

Federal assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar this week announced that the draft legislation requiring OEMs to share all motor vehicle service and repair information was only “weeks away” and that there would be only a short consultation period before going to parliament.

The news comes in the week that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) awaits a response from Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd about the car-maker’s recent 10-year new-vehicle warranty that centres on the vehicle being serviced at a Mitsubishi dealer for the duration. If not, the warranty period reduces to five years.

The Mitsubishi offer caused significant backlash and conversation from the nation’s independent service repairers and industry bodies.

At the recent Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) Industry Leaders Forum, Mr Sukkar said the issue had been subject to considerable and lengthy consultation for almost a decade.

AAAA CEO Stuart Charity said the minister’s comments were “a game changer” for the 30,000 independent repairers and the 150,000 technicians in Australia looking to service vehicles.

“It has been a long 10-year battle involving literally hundreds of meetings with politicians from all sides, as well as two major inquiries and an 18-month ACCC investigation with two rounds of extensive stakeholder consultation,” he said.

“This is a landmark decision. It means consumers will not be forced to get their car serviced at a car company dealership.

Stuart Charity

“We are incredibly grateful to the minister for getting this done. He just got it right from the beginning.”

The forthcoming legislation aims to provide a fairer playing field for the repair and service of the 74 automotive brands available in Australia in an industry worth $25 billion annually.

The law will compel car-makers to share all mechanical repair and service information with the independent auto repair sector on “fair and reasonable commercial terms”.

“No car owner should be forced to take the car back to a dealer because the car manufacturers have artificially manipulated the market by withholding software updates and reinitialisation codes,” Mr Charity said.

He said many other countries were watching with considerable interest to see what happened in Australia.

“It’s great that we are leading the way in the Asia Pacific region,” Mr Charity said.

The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) and Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) supported the AAAA and said that fair access to motor vehicle service and repair information from car manufacturers “is only right”.

“This development is a major win for the independent businesses that keep Australia moving, and means we are one step closer to being able to better serve motorists,” said VACC CEO, Geoff Gwilym.

The AAAA said the federal government is also committing $250,000 for an industry-led organisation to create the infrastructure to implement the legislation. This organisation would include representation from the VACC, MTAA and AAAA.

MTAA CEO Richard Dudley said: “There have been significant challenges and complexities in addressing this issue, potential solutions and the design and development of the legislation. However, the outcome is potentially world-leading.”

The VACC and MTAA said that the advocacy efforts, including key research and policy submissions, from industry bodies were instrumental in bringing access to service and repair data to the forefront of the government agenda.

The VACC’s Geoff Gwilym said: “Australia’s industry bodies have fought long and hard for a more even playing field for independent repairers when it comes to access to service and repair information, and this is a big step in the right direction.”

The next step is for the release of draft legislation before the matter is tabled in parliament.

By Neil Dowling

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