Car companies are now obliged to sell crucial vehicle service and repair information to Australia’s independent repairers, with an exisiting bill coming into effect today.

    The law, billed as the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, compels vehicle manufacturers to provide all service and repair information to independent repairers at a fair market price.

    Day-to-day operation of the scheme and access to manufacturer vehicle information is handled by a body called the Australian Automotive Service and Repair Authority (AASRA).

    Car brands previously, evidently and technically, had the option of providing proprietary repair information to their franchise dealers only, rather than the wider repair network – though many have been voluntarily selling technical data elsewhere regardless.

    As you’d imagine, CEO of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) Stuart Charity welcomed the changed law.

    “The law is a game-changer for thousands of independent workshops across the country who now have access to dealer level vehicle information for all brands sold in Australia, including software updates, wiring schematics, technical, security and EV information,” he said.

    “This ensures workshops can compete in the market on a level playing field, and it future proofs their businesses.

    “The AAAA has long fought for a law that gives independent workshops a fair go and motorists a choice of repairer. After more than a decade of campaigning, we are proud to see this law finally become a reality for the industry.

    “The new law will make a real difference to your workshop. I’ve spoken to many of our members who couldn’t wait for the new law to be operational so they can access the information they need, when they want it.”

    Similar regulatory interventions in the European Union and the United States have made technical information necessary for repairers to service and repair cars more widely available in those jurisdictions, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

    A previous ACCC market study alleged independent repairers experienced continued problems accessing information needed to repair and service new cars – despite a voluntary commitment made by car manufacturers in 2014 to provide independent repairers with the same information provided to authorised dealers.

    That being said, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries peak body for the carmakers says it has little issue with the law.

    “We have, many years ago, changed to the view that [proprietary service data] information should be provided to the market. We’re part of a process, led by the Commonwealth Treasury at the moment, to actually supply information to the market,” FCAI chief Tony Weber told us last year.

    “We’re working with the government, we’re working with other industry associations. We know the vast majority of the 17-million car fleet at the moment is actually serviced in the independent repairer network, and that has been the case for a long time.

    “They obviously have the information to service those cars.”

    Servicing is often a bigger source of profit for new car dealerships than sales, yet despite the tightened laws, the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) has welcomed the formalised policy as well.

    “Franchised new car Dealers welcome the competition. Our technicians are factory trained in the latest service and repair techniques and they have the most up to date Manufacturer specified tools and equipment. Franchised Dealers have and always will have an important role to play in the service and repair market,” said AADA CEO James Voortman this week.

    “Dealers already have good relationships with their local independent repairers to whom they regularly sell genuine parts and accessories. There are over 20 million registered cars in Australia and keeping them safe and reliable is a job bigger than any one sector of the service and repair industry,” he added.

    The ‘Competition and Consumer Amendment (Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme) Bill 2021’ hit the House of Representatives on March 24 of 2021, the Senate June 15, and had cleared both as of June 17 last year.

    The bill at its core demanded all car-makers sell repair and maintenance data to independent repairers “at a fair market price” from July 1 of 2022. Information related to safety and security will be made available only to individuals who have the appropriate qualifications.

    MORE: Shake-up coming for car repair sector
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    MORE: Q&A with Tony Weber, CEO of the FCAI peak car-industry body

    MORE: Q&A with James Voortman, CEO of the AADA dealer peak body

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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