The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme) Bill 2021 has been welcomed by industry bodies and the government.
Assistant treasurer and one of the legislation’s key advocates, Michael Sukkar, commented that it will allow independent repairers access to service and repair data “making the market more competitive and providing more options for car owners to choose their repairer”.
“This is a huge win for car owners,” he said.
“The average household spends more than $1500 a year on servicing and repairing their car. By leveling the playing field for independent repairers and creating a more competitive market, these reforms will bring down the cost of owning a car.”
Mr Sukkar credited several industry bodies “for their constructive engagement in developing this scheme,” including the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) and its CEO Richard Dudley, the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA), the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).
In a statement, Mr Sukkar said that independent repairs can lose work when they are not able to access the information they need to repair or service a car, despite being trained to do the job.
“Under these reforms, consumers will be able to go to a repairer of their choice without having to worry about whether they have the information to do the job,” he said.
He said the move would ensure a strong Australian automotive service and repair industry and keep its 35,000 businesses busy, 106,000 workers in jobs and 19.8 million vehicles on the road.
The government will provide a $250,000 grant to a joint industry-led organisation which will provide technical advice and run an online portal to help facilitate the sharing of scheme information between OEMs and repairers.
The AAAA said the Australian consumer is the big winner from the passing of the bill.
This follows almost a decade of campaigning by the AAAA and will lead to keeping the cost of replacement parts, vehicle maintenance and repair affordable.
AAAA CEO Stuart Charity said it was “a long time coming but will be welcome news for the automotive industry”.
“We started campaigning for this law a decade ago and have been through two government inquiries and even through a voluntary agreement in 2014 which was a complete failure,” he said.
The new law is designed to provide a fairer playing field for the repair and service of the 74 automotive brands available in Australia in an industry worth $23 billion annually.
Mr Charity said around one in 10 motor vehicles taken to repair workshops are affected by a lack of access to service and repair information.
“This can often lead to higher service costs for consumers,” he said.
“What this law means is that the service and repair information that car manufacturers share with their dealership network must also be made available to independent repairers.”
Mr Charity singled out the Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar. “He has personally steered this through government, and we thank him for his leadership.”
AADA CEO James Voortman said: “It’s no secret that our members were not the biggest champions of this legislation and that is because we make significant investments in training tools and equipment for the opportunity to be authorised service providers.”
“Nevertheless, we have accepted that the government has made the decision to establish legislation and we are working constructively with them and other industry participants to ensure the system is fair and reasonable.
“There are claims that car servicing will now be cheaper and I’m not sure that will be the case.
“Under the legislation it is clear that independent repairers will need to pay for this information, so it is difficult to conceive of how we will see significant discounting from independent repairers.”
The Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) congratulated the Morrison Government, notably the assistant treasurer and housing minister Michael Sukkar for championing and seeing through a legislated solution.
“Minister Sukkar recognised the need for a practical solution and persisted despite sometimes seemingly insurmountable odds,” VACC CEO Geoff Gwilym said.
“Australia’s global policy leadership is again highlighted as one of the few global jurisdictions to legislate a fair and balanced outcome for Australian consumers and automotive businesses.
“Automotive service and repair businesses will have strengthened rights to repair Australia’s 20 million strong fleet by accessing manufacturers’ and data providers’ service and repair information at reasonable prices.
“Australian motorists will also know their chosen repairer has access to critical service and repair information.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it welcomed the legislative changes which will increase competition and choice for consumers.
“Under the scheme, independent Australian motor vehicle repairers will have fair access to the information needed to service and repair cars, such as software updates to connect a new spare part with a car, or information and codes for computerised systems from the car manufacturer,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“This enables motorists to shop around for the repairer that offers the best price, service and convenience, knowing they will all have access to the information needed to complete the servicing or repair.”
“Previously, only car manufacturers and their affiliated repairers could be confident of getting access to important service and repair information, preventing many independent repairers from competing fairly for car servicing and repair work. This created additional costs for consumers, as well as inconvenience and delays.”
The ACCC’s 2017 new car retailing industry market study found that independent repairers experienced continued problems accessing information needed to repair and service new cars.
This was despite a voluntary commitment made by car manufacturers in 2014 to provide independent repairers with the same information provided to authorised dealers.
The ACCC recommended introducing a mandatory scheme requiring car manufacturers to share the information needed to repair and service cars with independent repairers.
The study found problems with the breadth, depth and timeliness of the service and repair information offered by car manufacturers to independent repairers, including a lack of transparency and consistency across manufacturers about safety and security information.
“These reforms will ensure consumers benefit from competitive aftermarkets and by having a choice of providers to repair and service cars,” Mr Sims said.
The Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme is scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2022 and will be monitored for compliance by the ACCC.
By Neil Dowling