ACCC and Federal Government show support for mandatory code at Autocare 2018

Representatives from the ACCC and the Federal Government threw their support behind the introduction of a mandatory code for data sharing during keynote speeches at Autocare 2018.
ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said a mandatory code must be introduced to create a commercially fair and reasonable marketplace where independent repairers can compete with dealer and manufacturer authorised service centres.
“At the ACCC we want to, if you will pardon the pun, drive reform to make sure that the automotive industry remains competitive and fair to consumers and businesses alike. In the case of the automotive aftermarket there is a strong case for change,” Rod told the assembled audience.
“In the past if you wanted to fix a car all you needed was a mechanic in greasy overalls. Nowadays you practically need a degree in mechanical engineering to repair a car.
“Today there is something like 10,000 lines of computer code in the average car and what is amazing is that is more code than an aviation support system in a modern airplane.
“In a sense we no longer drive cars, we drive computers.”
Rod said that car manufacturers must be mandated to release the necessary data to independent repairers so that they can compete on as close to a level playing field as possible.
“To fix today’s cars you need access to a huge amount of complex technical information, which is held by the car companies,” he explained.
“This allows the car companies to control who has access to the technical information needed to repair cars and of course they will favour their own dealers and preferred repair networks over independent repairers.
“It is obvious that consumers benefit from a competitive independent aftermarket to have choice where they take their cars.”

In what can only be described as strong support for the long-held AAAA position, Rod reiterated the findings of an ACCC market study into the automotive market that the introduced ‘voluntary’ code was just not working.
“Following a market study the ACCC observed that the voluntary code just wasn’t working,” he said.
“We recommended a mandatory scheme to share the technical information with independent repairers on commercially fair and reasonable terms.”
He gave a strong message to the Federal Government claiming that the road map was in place and all that was needed now was for the powers-that-be to act on the report.
“We outlined a number of options of how a mandatory code could work,” he said.
Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, told the assembled audience that the Federal Government was “actively working on a mandatory code” but fell short of outlining a timeline for the legislation to be implemented.
“The Government is proud to have committed to the (ACCC) market study as a priority…we are in a hurry to get this done…the government is now considering the design of the mandatory scheme and how it will operate here in Australia,” he said.
“It is the Government’s view that Australia deserves better and that you as independent automotive repairers deserve better, and I can assure you today that is what we are seeking to do.”
Meanwhile, Senior Vice President of regulatory and government affairs for the Auto Care Association in the United States, Aaron Lowe, outlined the challenges his organisation had to get similar legislation passed in America.
“You need to fight the manufacturers head on,” he declared.
“If you fight the manufacturers you put them in a position of defense and they don’t perform well from that position.
“You need to get the industry engaged. Industry education is critical. It’s so important for the industry to be engaged politically.
“It’s all about the consumer. You cannot leave the consumer out of this because they are the driving force.”

Aaron said that even though data sharing has been enforced by government legislation that the fight in the US was far from over.
He said his organisation’s job now was to make sure that the car manufacturers comply with the legislation and to train the technicians where they can get the data and how to use it.
“Because if we don’t do that then we lose on the backend. It’s no point winning the battle but losing the war, because if we allow that to happen then we have wasted a lot of time,” Aaron said.
Aaron finished his keynote by stating that data sharing and choice of repairer was just the beginning of the battle. He believes connected cars are a major challenge of the future.
“The questions we need to ask are: Who really owns the car? Are we just licensing the software and data from the car companies?” Aaron said.
Government Relations and Advocacy for the AAAA, Lesley Yates, said:
“Choice of Repairer is about more than just data sharing. Data sharing gets the most publicity, as it should. If we don’t establish the rules that consumers own the data in their own cars, then pretty soon cars are going to be ordering their own parts and we’ll be cut out of the industry.
“We are also working on warranties and electronic logbooks. We are talking about extended warranties, capped price servicing and access to parts.
“Choice of Repairer is about anything that prevents a consumer from exercising choice and prevents us from competing in a fair and competitive playing field.”
Lesley gave an overview of the campaign so far and warned of the battle yet to come.
“Never underestimate the powers that we are up against; never underestimate the power of this lobby,” she stated.
“We can’t out spend the car companies, but we can sure outwork them.
“Over three years we had 75 members of parliament visit independent workshops. We had customers talking to their members of parliament. We basically did all that we could.”

Lesley praised the ACCC report, claiming it was what the AAAA and its members had been working towards for nine years.
“The best thing about this report is that we no longer have to deal with the untruths put forward by the car companies. They are not true because the ACCC have said that they are not true and we can now just deal with facts,” she said.
“We now have the competition watchdog in Australia telling Government: ‘you must introduce a mandatory code’.”
Lesley also welcomed Minister Sukkar’s comments.
“For the first time a minister in the Australian Government has said that they are working on a mandatory code – not ‘should we?’ or ‘we’re considering it’. There is active work going on to develop a mandatory code. We now just need a timeframe. What we want to know right now is ‘when is this going to happen?’” she said.
“What are we waiting for? We are not reinventing the wheel here because Aaron (Lowe) has already developed a code in the US. Here is a working model. All we need to do is Australianise the American model.”
Lesley echoed Aaron’s comments on connected cars.
“As an industry we should be talking about this,” she declared.
“We have proven that we can combine together as a united industry. We have the car manufacturers to thank for this because we now have strength of unity.”