ACCC Chairman Rod Sims declared last Friday, 4 May 2018 at an automotive industry event that voluntary data sharing arrangements between motor vehicle manufacturers and the aftermarket sector have failed.
At the event, run by aftermarket industry group the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA), Mr Sims stated that the ACCC’s recent new car retailing industry market study found that a mandatory scheme to share technical information is the only way to ensure that consumers benefit from a competitive aftermarket repairer sector.
Mr Sims also stated that cars today are effectively ‘computers on wheels’ and that, by keeping digitally held technical information, car manufacturers favour their own dealer networks over independent repairers. The ACCC alleges this is done at the expense of consumers. Mr Sims cited specific examples of where manufacturers had fallen short of voluntary data sharing commitments, stating that:
- Few car manufacturers had provided access to technical information to the aftermarket sector in a manner equivalent to its independent repairers;
- The ACCC’s technical expert was unable to access information from a particular car manufacturer’s online platform and needed to seek assistance from an authorised dealer;
- In the case of certain (unidentified) manufacturers, access to technical information was only granted once the ACCC’s market study had commenced;
- In some cases, access to technical information took up to 2 weeks to obtain;
- Several manufacturers did not provide online access to technical information; and
- Many manufacturers completely restricted access to any environmental, safety or security related technical information due to perceived risks of increased car thefts or unauthorised modifications.
On the basis that the ACCC perceives voluntary data sharing commitments to have failed, Mr Sims said the ACCC has recommended (to Government) that a mandatory data sharing scheme be introduced. In referring to a mandatory scheme, Mr Sims gave three examples of how the scheme might be given legal effect:
- Firstly, as a change to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act or the Australian Design Rules – effectively requiring technical information to repair and service cars to be made available to independent repairers as a condition of a car gaining certification under those laws;
- Secondly, a mandatory industry code (under the auspices of the Competition & Consumer Act 2010) administered by the ACCC; or
- Thirdly, by new standalone legislation.
Finally, Mr Sims stated that the ACCC, having completed its market study, would ‘vacate the field’ but committed to the ACCC continuing to engage with the aftermarket sector and other stakeholders in preparing advice to government for the development of the mandatory scheme.
This article was written by Evan Stents, Partner and Christian Teese, Senior Associate.
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