The Australian Senate has passed the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme Bill, which will, from July 1 next year, make it illegal for manufacturers to withhold information from qualified independent mechanics.
Expected to help keep the cost of replacement parts, vehicle maintenance and repair affordable, the law has been welcomed by some automotive industry bodies, the government and The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, although others have their reservations.
Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association CEO Stuart Charity described the mandatory scheme as “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.
Mr Charity added that around one in 10 motor vehicles taken to repair workshops are affected by a lack of access to service and repair information.
“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.”
ACCC chair Rod Sims said the lack of mandatory information sharing “created additional costs for consumers, as well as inconvenience and delays”.
He welcomed the new legislation as enabling vehicle owners “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,” said Mr Sims.
Support for the legislation from the AAAA and ACCC was echoed by the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce, which issued a statement saying the law highlighted “Australia’s global policy leadership”.
“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,” said the VACC statement.
The Australian Automotive Dealer Association was naturally less positive about the outcome, questioning whether the legislation would really reduce costs for consumers.
“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,” said AADA CEO James Voortman.
“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, the aim of the new law is 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 and encompassing almost 35,000 businesses that employ more than 106,000 people.
Stuart Charity singled out the Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar. “He has personally steered this through Government, and we thank him for his leadership.”
Mr Sukkar said: “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.”
Compliance monitoring will be done by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The federal government will chip in $250,000 for the creation of a joint industry-led organisation that will run an online portal to help facilitate information sharing, as well as providing technical support.