right to repair

Whose Right to Repair?

While the controversial ‘Right to Repair’ debate has gripped automotive industries on a global scale, in Australia it’s also uncovered the importance of an unbiased association for Dealers.

A debate has waged between Australian automotive manufacturers, Dealers and independent repairers about the freedom to access important vehicle servicing information for years.

Historically, independent and aftermarket repairers have argued that the withholding of up-to-date repair equipment, software and information puts them (and consumers) at a major disadvantage. On the other hand, most Dealers believe that their substantial investment in manufacturer-specified technology and technicians makes them more qualified to access repair information and perform high-quality workmanship.

As it stands today, independent and aftermarket repairers do enjoy access to the same up-to-date repair information and equipment as franchised Dealers. Independents are able to obtain repair information directly from manufacturer websites, as well as from a variety of service and repair manuals available in print and online. ‘Information aggregators’, that is, websites that compile information from detailed databases, are also becoming an increasingly easy and popular way to browse large stores of repair information overseas and it’s expected that Australia will follow suit.

The availability of information for independents has been backed by evidence uncovered by the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) which found ‘limited and conflicting evidence of the difficulties associated with accessing specialised repair information’ in a final report dated 27 November 2012.
So while information is now accessible for aftermarket repairers, government pressure continues to mount as the associations representing these businesses demand that information becomes available free of charge.

The AADA believes that this is an unreasonable and unjust proposition, and one that undermines the costly investment franchised Dealers make to operate their service departments. The AADA does not support free, unilateral transfer of information – particularly without the necessary skills development, training, workshop tooling and equipment that is mandated in dealerships. Instead, the AADA believes that information should be accessed by parties outside of the authorised Dealer network for a commercially realistic price as per current conditions.

Over the years that this debate has endured, many voices have been heard representing different sides of the industry. Unfortunately however, Australia’s new car dealers have remained under represented.

While the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has dogmatically argued against the interests of Dealers (and in favour of independents), state associations supposedly supporting Dealerships have not always been consistent or dedicated.

For example, the VACC’s submission to the Government, under David Purchase, called for the:

‘Introduction of federal legislation requiring that vehicle repair information is accessible to the vehicle industry for all new vehicles sold in Australia.’ The submission also cited that withholding information from independents was ‘likely to become an increasing issue in the future.’
This view from the VACC is only strengthened, with a statement from its recent February magazine, stating that ‘government should do all it can to ensure information access for independent businesses.’

What is clear from both of these statements is that a real conflict exists for state and territory associations attempting to represent the interests of both Dealers and their competitors. It is with issues just like the ‘Right to Repair’ debate that highlights just how important the newly formed AADA, which fights exclusively for Dealers, is, and will continue to be for the industry.

The new AADA is controlled and funded by Dealers, for Dealers and it is in combating lingering issues such as this one where the advantages of the newly formed Association will be clear.

Moving forward with ‘Right to Repair’, the AADA supports the CCAAC recommendation for a Voluntary Code of Practice to be developed by all parties involved in the debate. AADA Chairman Ian Field and Policy Director Michael Deed attended a meeting in Melbourne on 27 February to review the draft code and discussions will further explore a solution that benefits all members of the industry.

For updates on the progress of this matter get your hands on the next issue of Automotive Dealer or find us online.

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