Motor Vehicle Service Information Sharing - 13/05/2021

13 May 2021


I support not only the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Motor Vehicle Service and Repair Information Sharing Scheme) Bill 2021 but also the member for Fenner's second reading amendment, which points out how this government has failed to act in a timely manner. Labor moved in 2018 to make these reforms, encouraging the government to act and implement this important initiative to ensure that Australians have the right to get their car serviced where they want and to boost competition in the car repair sector. It's pretty simple: if you buy a car, you should be able to access information to fix it and you should be able to choose your mechanic, and mechanics should be able to access the information they need to fix your car.

I commend the member for Fenner for his persistent lobbying on this issue. The government could have chosen to support small business in 2018, when the member for Fenner first raised this. The government could have chosen to support Australian car owners in 2018, when the member for Fenner first raised this. They didn't and here we are four years later. The member for Fenner has persisted, and it is a testament to his determination that we finally have this bill in the House today.

Labor knows that a better deal on car service and repair will put more money back into the pockets of car owners and also give 23,000 independent repairers a boost. It's good for households and it's good for business. That's why we've pushed for years to have a scheme that will require car manufacturers to share technical information with independent mechanics, on commercially fair and reasonable terms, with safeguards that enable environmental, safety and security related technical information to be shared with the independent sector.

New cars are computers on wheels. Real-time access to digital files and codes, which vary from car to car, is needed to complete many aspects of a repair or service. Car manufacturers generally own or control this technical information and in many cases are the only sources. Whether you own a Toyota Corolla or a Ford Ranger, you should be able to choose where you get your car serviced. The car manufacturers' protection racket on this information pushes up prices for car services and limits the ability of independent mechanics to grow their business and generate more jobs.

For many years now Labor have been calling for independent mechanics to get access to this critical information that car manufacturers make available only to authorised dealers and preferred repairer networks. We've pushed for this reform because it will not only deliver savings to drivers, who will have better choice and easier access to repairs, but also create a level playing field for independent mechanics, who will be able to stay in business as a result. Labor understands that it's your car and it should be your choice where you get it repaired. A level playing field on car service and repairs will deliver money to the household budget and give local mechanics a boost to their business. Small repairers should not be locked out of business because they simply don't have the information that they need to fix cars.

This is a Labor win. Labor have been pushing this issue for a very long time—first in 2011, when the Hon. David Bradbury, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, requested the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council report on consumer harm being caused by lack of access to service and repair information. In 2014, under the Liberals, key industry associations agreed on access to service repair information for motor vehicles—heads of agreement that placed voluntary obligations on car manufacturers to, in general, share with independent repairers, on commercially fair and reasonable terms, the same technical information they provide to their own dealers. The ACCC and independent mechanics, including Kmart Tyre and Auto and Ultra Tune, agree that this scheme was a failure, with very few car manufacturers—Holden being a notable exception—providing access to technical information. The government delayed a review into the voluntary agreement, breaking a promise to do so. The review was finally folded into the ACCC's new car-retailing industry market study, released in December 2017. Labor's 2018 commitment to create a mandatory data-sharing scheme and the advocacy of individual Labor representatives, in partnership with local small mechanics, forced the government to take action.

Labor supports this bill. It is a good thing, but it should have happened sooner and it wouldn't be happening at all without Labor's advocacy and without the advocacy of the member for Fenner, who has been a tireless advocate on this issue which is good for business and good for people who drive cars, which, as we know, is the majority of us.