New report prompts additional discussions about right to repair legislation
Towards the end of last year, the Australian Government Productivity Commission published its inquiry report on the matter of right to repair.
Documented within the report is the new Competition and Consumer Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme.
This long-desired bill was introduced on 17 June 2021 to provide independent automotive businesses fair access to the required parts, diagnostic equipment and software required to maintain and repair new vehicles.
This, in turn, will grant customers more choice and access to a fairer and more competitive marketplace, helping them keep their vehicles on the road conveniently and cost-effectively.
While the report acknowledges that the scheme has yet to run for long enough to be meaningfully assessed, it does suggest that the government should carry out a public and independent evaluation after three years to assess its objectives, achievements, benefits and potential required revisions.
The report also raises several interesting points about associated legislation, such as a suggested revision to Australian Consumer Law to ensure that software updates, which are increasingly in the automotive world, will be provided for a reasonable time after a product has been purchased.
Another proposal covers amendments to copyrighted materials, including manuals and schematics, so that required documentation can be more easily accessed for repair purposes when required.
The Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC), which has long campaigned for and collaborated on the Motor Vehicle Service and Repair scheme, has however raised questions about some of the matters discussed in the report.
For example, a new fast-trackable “super complaints process” process is mooted, to allow approved organisations to rapidly escalate claims regarding systemic issues associated with consumer guarantees.
“A one-size-fits-all approach to consumer complaints may lead to frivolous claims from consumer groups targeting the automotive sector,” said Geoff Gwilym, CEO of the VACC.
“VACC, along with its national body the Motor Trades Association of Australia, seeks assurances there will be adequate oversight and dialogue with industry if this recommendation is adopted.”
The inquiry also explores increased access to service and repair materials for farmers, which would prove useful due to the often time-critical nature of the repairs and the necessity to use local independent repairers.
“VACC supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation, requiring manufacturers to provide access to repair information and diagnostic software tools to independent repairers,” said Gwilym.
“However, greater consideration should be taken if the intention is to also make them available to the farm machinery sector – with its increasingly complex systems.”