“As I stand here today, it is now unlawful for a car manufacturer to withhold service and repair information from independent repairers for any vehicle manufactured from 2002 onwards. It’s unlawful. Small fines, 10 million bucks each time.”
Powerful words from Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) government relations and advocacy director Lesley Yates during her keynote presentation at Wire & Gas 2022.
But they reflect some powerful legislation, which has taken a concerted effort by the AAAA, kindred organisations and grassroots workshop owners to convince both sides of Parliament to introduce, pass, implement and enforce.
“It’s still a moment in time that we need to celebrate that we need to pause and remember and think about the long journey that we had,” Lesley told the room.
“I was speaking to [VASA president] Ian in the foyer and he said he remembers when the [Choice of Repairer] campaign was launched in 2009.”
Lesley spoke of her determination through the ups and downs of the Choice of Repairer campaign trail, saying she “couldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t think we were going to win”.
Now all that hard work has finally delivered a result, Lesley was emphatic that independent repairers familiarise themselves with their entitlements under the new law and to set high expectations of the car manufacturers in delivering on their obligations.
“When we run into trouble, or we have a dispute, we need to know what we were promised by the law and we need to set our expectations high, because we’re no longer going to just collect or be on the end of what the car-makers think we deserve,” she said
“We’re going to demand what we’re entitled to under the law.”
If taking on the Australian branch of a behemoth global vehicle manufacturer sounds a touch intimidating for busy independent workshop owners, Lesley has some good news.
“What is really cool is a whole group of people have been employed by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) to enforce the law,” she said.
“So we’ve got a group of people whose full time job is to fine the shit out of the car industry, and I’m certain that they’re going to have a good time picking their first candidate.”
Lesley revealed that the dedicated ACCC team’s budget is $9.9 million.
“I think it’s no accident that the largest fine is 10 million, so I think they’ve got the ability to make that their five-year budget in one hit,” she said.
Moving into the practicalities of accessing the information, Lesley clarified that it is not available to DIY repairers.
“You can’t do this because you own the car, you need to be in the business,” she explained.
“When you register, you need to put your ABN in because you need to be employed or engaged in the business (of automotive repair). It’s not for consumers”.
Conditions and additional fees apply to the access of information about electrified vehicles with high-voltage systems, or for procedures and codes relating to security features such as immobilisers.
The former relies on the user having completed the Depower and Reinitialise Battery Electric Vehicles unit of competency (AURETH001) and the latter is subject to the user having completed a National Police Check.
Lesley clarified that the police check does not have to come back with a clear record, the requirement being to have not been involved in vehicle theft.
“No one really cares if you were done for graffiti when you were 16,” she said, adding that the EV qualification and police check requirement was a concession to push back from the car manufacturers about releasing some information types on safety and prevention of crime grounds.
“Generally speaking, most technicians are not actually in the business of stealing their customer’s car,” she joked.
To access the information, repairers must register on the Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority (AASRA) website at aasra.com.au.
Most brands participate in the AASRA portal scheme, where credentials validated by AASRA are accepted automatically by the manufacturers for access to their information, including whether the user has access to the high-voltage and security sections.
Brands not participating include Aston Martin, BMW Group, Caterham, Ferrari, Jaguar Land Rover, Morgan and Volkswagen Group (including Porsche).
Lesley explained that non-participating brands are “not above the law”.
“They must comply with the law, but they’ll have their own systems,” she said. “So don’t throw away your paperwork once you’ve gone through the AASRA system.”
Evidence such as ABN, AURETH001 completion and National Police Check must be separately uploaded to each of the non-participating brands in order to access their information.
However, all of them must still publish their price of access. “We’re still monitoring them, and the ACCC still fine them if they break the law,” added Lesley.
Despite the handful of non-participants, Australian repairers have “one validation for about 90 per cent of the vehicles in the Australian car parc”, said Lesley.
She also urged the room to use the Missing Information Report function of the AASRA portal rather than resorting to Google or phoning a friend who is expert at workarounds.
“We can’t accept the information that they’re prepared to give us, we have to set our expectations high,” said Lesley, encouraging repairers to change a mindset that has been beaten into them by recalcitrant car-makers for decades.
“I’ve got a vehicle in front of me, I am a trained professional, my customer has chosen me to deliver this service, I am entitled to this information,” she insisted.
“The car companies are obliged to give us a help desk, so we’ve got a person at every car company and their mobile phone number.”
It costs $90 + GST per year to register with AASRA as a technician or RTO, with a one-time $50 fee for EV and Hydrogen Certified access (AURETH001 completion required) and an annual $210 fee for Vehicle Security Professional credentials that requires additional vetting and documentation of a National Police Check.